DCMS Committee on gambling regulation publishes its report
The Department for Culture, Media and Sport (“DCMS”) Committee on gambling regulation, appointed by the House of Commons, has today published its report with its conclusions and recommendations to Government.
The inquiry launched in December 2022, at a time when there was considerable uncertainty about the status of the Gambling White Paper. The original terms of reference were as follows:
- What is the scale of gambling-related harm in the UK?
- What should the key priorities be in the gambling White Paper?
- How broadly should the term ‘gambling’ be drawn?
- Is it possible for a regulator to stay abreast of innovation in the online sphere?
- What additional problems arise when online gambling companies are based outside UK jurisdiction?
After the publication of the White Paper, on 27 April 2023, the terms of reference were broadened to include:
- What are the most welcome proposals in the Gambling White Paper?
- Are there any significant gaps in the Government’s reforms?
- What are the potential barriers to the Government and Gambling Commission delivering the White Paper’s main measure by summer 2024, the Government’s stated aim?
Culture Media and Sport, Chair, Dame Caroline Dinenage MP, said:
“While gambling regulation should not overly impinge on the freedom to enjoy what is a problem-free pastime for the majority, more should be done to shield both children and people who have experienced problem gambling from what often seems like a bombardment of advertising branding at football and other sporting events. The Government needs to go further than the proposals in the White Paper and work with sports governing bodies on cutting the sheer volume of betting adverts people are being exposed to.”
The Committee received more than 160 submissions and held four oral evidence sessions.
Main conclusions and recommendations:
Implementation of the Gambling White Paper
- The Government must set out a detailed timetable for the delivery of the White Paper’s proposals, with the Committee concerned that there was no mention of gambling legislation in the King’s Speech.
- The Government and Gambling Commission should set out how they will address the growing trend of unlicensed gambling sites targeting the self-excluded. The Gambling Commission must also continue to work to improve its knowledge of the black market and its ability to monitor the number of British consumers gambling with illegal operators.
Online gambling protections
- The Committee supports the principle of financial risk checks, but they must be minimally intrusive with customers’ financial data properly protected. There should be a pilot of the new system before the checks are fully implemented.
- Stake limits for online slots should match those for electronic gaming machines in land-based venues and not exceed £5. Online deposit limits should be set by default and require customers to opt out rather than opt in.
Children and young adults
- The Government should review the case for banning children’s access to social casino games, which are often playable on smartphones and simulate gambling activities and products.
- The Committee supports the proposed enhanced online gambling protections for young adults aged 18-24, namely triggering a financial risk check at a lower monetary loss threshold and limiting the stake for online slots to £2. The Government, Gambling Commission, and gambling operators must ensure these measures do not unintentionally lead to more adults in this age group giving a higher age at account-creation.
- There is an urgent need to better understand the effects of gambling advertising on the risk of harm. The evidence for a link between advertising and gambling harm currently appears much stronger than evidence indicating there is a risk of displacement to the black market if gambling advertising were restricted. The Government must commission research on the link between gambling advertising and the risk of gambling harm, including specifically for women and children.
- The Government should have taken a more precautionary approach to gambling advertising in general – particularly to minimise children’s exposure. While a complete ban on gambling advertising would not be appropriate, there is still scope for further regulation beyond that proposed by the Government.
- The Government should work with the Premier League and the governing bodies of other sports to ensure that the gambling sponsorship code of conduct contains provision to reduce the volume of gambling adverts in stadia. A higher proportion of gambling advertising in stadia should be dedicated to safer gambling messaging. The Government must require sports governing bodies to publish the code without further undue delay.
- Customers who prefer to pay on electronic gaming machines using cash should continue to be able to do so on all machines following any introduction of cashless payments.
- The Government must ensure that the new settlement arising from the review of the Horserace Betting Levy mitigates the impact of the White Paper’s reforms on the racing industry and ensuring British racing’s future.
Gambling research, prevention and treatment
- The Committee supports the proposed structure and governance of the new statutory levy to be imposed on operators in the industry to fund gambling research, prevention and treatment. The Government must ensure that service providers currently operating via the voluntary funding system are adequately supported in the transition to a statutory levy. There should be a new national strategy for reducing gambling harms.
A Gambling Ombudsman
- The scope of the new gambling ombudsman should include all disputes between gambling operators and their customers, not only those relating to social responsibility failings.
Government has two months to respond.
Please get in touch if you would like discuss any of the proposals in the White Paper or would like any assistance preparing a response to the Gambling Commission’s current open consultations: the Autumn consultation, which includes proposals relating to incentives, customer-led tools, customer funds protection and regulatory returns reporting (closing 21 February 2024) and the December consultation on proposals relating to financial penalties and financial key event reporting (currently closing 15 March 2024).