Gambling White Paper Review and Response

White Paper on Gambling: Review and Response

After around 4 years of waiting, the government’s white paper on gambling was finally released last week.

It was welcomed by the industry, if only because it might finally provide some stability that would allow companies to make more concrete plans on how to do business going further.

However, while many changes have indeed been implemented, an awful lot has been left to ‘further consultation’, which basically means ongoing uncertainty around some recommendations, and for an indeterminate amount of time too.

Among the changes are stake limits for online slot machines of £2 for under 25s and £15 for anyone older, and surprisingly, laws have been relaxed for real world casinos in terms of the number of machines they can have, but for sports bettors there is more to chew through.

Changes to offers and marketing are afoot, but again, it’s not yet clear exactly what this will look like, and bookmakers’ tendencies to limit winners has come under the microscope too. We don’t know how this will be addressed, but the fact that it has been brought up can only be positive for punters.

What Does the White Paper on Gambling Mean for Sports Bettors?

Sports Bettor

The review seems to be broadly attempting to achieve two things:

  • Level the playing field across the industry for operators and punters
  • Increase safety measures for those under 25

It has been proven that our brains do not fully develop until the age of 25, which is why we are more likely to make poor decisions when we are young, and the 18-24 (male) demographic is the most likely to display dangerous gambling behaviour, so it all ties in.

In terms of levelling the playing field, the government will create a gambling ombudsman to deal with complaints, specifically those regarding operators failing in their safe guarding responsibilities.

All bookies and casinos will need to provide access to this ombudsman, and it will give the whole industry a lynch pin when it comes to resolving problems.

There will also be a statutory levy introduced to all online operators, an as yet undeclared annual financial commitment that will be used to fund research, education, and treatment for gambling harms.

The biggest  and potentially most disruptive announcement in the revue though, is background checks.

Background Checks for Affordability

Financial HealthThis is one of the biggest areas of debate.

Up until now, the UKGC have had to issue fine after fine because online operators haven’t had strict enough procedures in place to monitor their customer’s behaviour and safeguard them.

However, since there have been no specific parameters set by the governing body, operators have been shooting in the dark to some extent.

A two tier background check system has now been announced that aims to clear this up, with set limits for net losses that will trigger background checks.

These checks have been a contentious issue for a number of years already, and many were worried that they would become even more frequent and intrusive, but the government think the majority of these checks can be done in the background, calling them “frictionless”.

The system works by triggering checks at the following points:

Tier 1 Tier 2
Net loss of £125 in a month Net loss of £1,000 in 24 hours
Net loss of £500 in a year Net loss of £2,000 in 90 days

The tier 1 checks are hoped to be achievable using open banking or credit reference agencies, and will need little to no input from the punter; whereas the tier 2 checks will be a little more in depth, but the government have said that only a very small number of people will need to submit extra documentation.

In line with the quest to provide better protection for under 25s, the tier 2 limits are cut in half for those who fall into this younger age group.

What has the Industry Response Been?

Gambling Industry Reaction White Paper

It’s been noted that the industry response has been fairly muted, and this could be a case of them feeling they have got off lightly and are therefore keeping their heads down.

Much of the review focuses on online products and services, but offline industry operators have had their say too.

Interestingly, while many on course bookmakers have been worrying about what happens if these background checks are extended to non-remote bookies – how on earth are on course bookmakers supposed to monitor a customer at the racetrack – others have said this might actually be good for them.

While the average bet on course is around £5 (£2.50 each way), bookie Glyn Jones has said:

“I think there’s been a few more big punters about in the last few months, compared to previously. That could be by chance, but there’s as much chance it’s because of affordability checks.”

So online checks could actually push bettors back to the racecourse, which the racing industry is unlikely to complain about.

When it comes to gambling charities and anti-gambling campaigners, they have of course welcomed the changes but most have said opportunities to do more have been missed.

From BeGambleAware:

“Today’s Gambling White Paper is a welcome step in the right direction for the prevention of gambling harms. It is encouraging to see these commitments for a sustainable and transparent funding model as well as greater consumer protections, particularly in the online space.”

So all in all the industry should be a better place thanks to the white paper, without too much damage done to the bottom line, and without too much interference for regular responsible gamblers.

This whole thing was about getting the balance right between regulation and personal freedom.

Not everyone will agree about exactly where on the spectrum the review falls, and there is plenty of consultation still to come, but no one seems to be up in arms, and that in itself is probably evidence that the white paper has struck a decent balance.