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Shake up of Analogue Gambling Laws Announced

09/12/2020

UK Secretary of State, Oliver Dowden, has called the UK’s Gambling Act an “analogue law in a digital” era and said it belonged to an age when people had a “flutter in a high street bookmaker, casino, and race course or seaside pier”.

His statement comes as the UK Government announced it was launching a wide-ranging review into UK Gambling laws, which are largely contained in the Gambling Act:  a piece of legislation that was controversially passed by Tony Blair and was meant to herald in a new golden era of gambling and Super Casinos.

Since then, gambling in the UK has evolved at breakneck speed and in a totally different direction with the development of technology and online gambling.

People are now more likely to gamble online than go into betting shops and the dreams of glamourous, lifestyle, super casinos has given way to a UK where the young and vulnerable have been drawn into a world of online betting and scratch cards.

It is now estimated that there are over 36.6 million customer accounts registered with organisations that are regulated by the UK Gambling Commission.

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The Review will be Far Reaching

The UK Government announcement follows on from a commitment that was made last year in their election manifesto and they have said they will look at a wide range of issues, from the age someone can buy a Lottery ticket or scratch card, to whether caps are necessary on the amounts people can stake online.

If introduced, such changes would echo those that have already been introduced in recent years and saw limits placed on betting levels for Fixed Odd Betting Terminals in betting shops; and earlier this year saw online gambling with credit cards banned. The UK Government have also said the review will also look at what the Gambling Commission’s role is and what powers they should have.

Could Online Gaming be caught by new rules?

This final point may give hope to some campaigners who have said how we classify gambling should also be looked, with some arguing online gaming now also needs to be treated as a form of gambling or, at least recognised as a gateway into it.

Last September, the UK Government announced a review into online gaming.

This followed on from concerns that many online computer games, primarily targeted at children and young adults, use business models that allow in-game purchases to be made, this was developing into a form of gambling. This has seen gamers being encouraged to make random purchases for players and loot boxes in the hope they may get the ones they want.

Last year, this led to a number of cases being made high profile, when whole families were plunged into financial hardship after their children made purchases without their knowledge. There was also an anonymous footballer who admitted he had spent £10,000 over two years.

Gambling is a Public Health issue

The announcement by the UK Government has been widely welcomed by UK debt and gambling charities, which have campaigned for such a review.

It is expected it will lead to the age when someone can buy a lottery ticket or scratch card being increased to 18 from 16. It is also likely to scrutinise the National Lottery, which in recent years has evolved its model to focus more on Scratch cards and online gambling.

It’s also believed the review may bring an end to the practice of betting firms sponsoring the football shirts of professional football clubs.

The Gambling Health Alliance, which is an organisation made up of over 50 charities and academics, has called for the review to treat gambling as a public health issue and has said that for the last 15 years the UK public has been at the mercy of the gambling industry, who have taken advantage of what has been “sluggish and inadequate” regulations.

“We have seen the devastating effects of this on lives lost and ruined” said the Group Chair, Duncan Stephenson “with gambling companies shamelessly exploiting the young and vulnerable, making obscene amounts of money at the expense of some of our most deprived communities,”

Former gambling addict Matt Zarb-Cousin, who runs a campaign that calls for the gambling industry to be cleaned up, also welcomed the review and said it was long-overdue, in an age where “gambling laws…are incompatible with the smart phone era”.

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