The Gambling Act 2005: “Analogue Legislation in a Digital Age”
The Gambling Act 2005, which came into force on 1 September 2007 before the digital development of smart phones, online gambling and social media, sets out how gambling in Great Britain should be regulated and created the Gambling Commission. In 2005, internet usage was approximately 18%. Today, the figure is over 90%. Other than the monumental Gambling (Licensing and Advertising) Act 2014, which implemented a point of consumption licensing, therefore amending section 36, the Gambling Act 2005 has remained largely unchanged since drafted in 2005.
Gambling was the forefront of many party 2019 election manifestos, with the Conservatives, Labour, Liberal Democrats and the Scottish National Party all calling for reform of the Gambling Act 2005:
- Conservatives pledged to “continue to take action to tackle gambling addiction” and stated that “given how the online world is moving, the Gambling Act is increasingly becoming an analogue law in a digital age.”
- Labour pledged that they would “curb gambling advertisements in sport and introduce a new Gambling Act fit for the digital age, establishing gambling limits, a levy for problem gambling funding and mechanisms for consumer compensations.”
- Liberal Democrats pledged that they would “introduce further measures to protect individuals, their families and communities from problem gambling.” The party stated that they will “introduce a compulsory levy on gambling companies to fund research, education and treatment of problem gambling, ban the use of credit cards for gambling, restrict gambling advertising and establish a Gambling Ombudsman.”
- Scottish National Party pledged that they would “support changes to charity lottery law to reduce bureaucracy, maximise returns to good causes and support a full public health inquiry into gambling related harm.”
The review of the Gambling Act 2005 was confirmed on 19 December 2019 in the Queen’s Speech, when Her Majesty declared “my Ministers will develop legislation to improve internet safety for all… [t]he Government will carry out a review of the Gambling Act, with a focus on tackling issues around online loot boxes and credit card misuse.”
Various parliamentary voices have described the Gambling Act 2005 as “analogue legislation in a digital age”. Perhaps the most critical (or loudest?) voices are those of the All Party Parliamentary Group for Gambling Related Harm (“APPG”) which published an interim report in November 2019 on its assessment of the impact of online gambling. The APPG is undertaking evidence sessions, including calling upon the Gambling Commission and the Gambling Minister, to contribute to its final report, which will be published in Spring 2020. Evidence sessions will consider areas such as the age level for purchasing scratch-cards (presently, 16), loot boxes, prize and stake limits, the normalisation of gambling, gambling advertising and the gamblification of sport. The APPG will also include a review of the Gambling Act 2005 in advance of the Government’s review.
The Government review of the Gambling Act 2005 will be published in late 2020.
Additionally, the Social Market Foundation will conduct an independent pre-review report, to be published in Summer 2020, outlining the key priorities which any future review should consider.