What's the issue?
The UK's Gambling Act regulates real-world and online gambling but, dating back to 2005, it has long been felt to be out of date, particularly in relation to protecting the vulnerable online.The government launched a review of the Gambling Act at the end of 2020, to determine whether it was still fit for purpose and what might be needed to strengthen the framework.
What's the development?
The government published a White Paper High Stakes: Gambling Reform for the Digital Age, at the end of April 2022, setting out its policy proposals.
Key policy proposals impacting online gambling and games include:
- more prescriptive rules on when online operators must check customers' financial circumstances for signs of harmful losses. The proposed threshold is £125 net loss within a month or £500 within a year for light touch checks, rising to more detailed checks for £1000 net loss within a day or £2000 within 90 days
- a stake limit for online slot games of between £2-15 per spin and greater protections for 18-24 year olds
- making online games safer by design by reviewing game speeds and removing features which increase risk
- subject to trial outcomes, the Commission will consult on making data sharing between online operators on high-risk customers mandatory
- improvements to player-centric tools, including online deposit limits
- ensuring incentives like bonuses and free bets are constructed in a socially responsible manner and do not increase the risk of harm, especially to vulnerable people
- strengthening informational messaging, including around the risks associated with gambling
- a review of Gambling Commission fees to help with its resources and provide flexibility, and a statutory levy on operators to help fund research, education and treatment of gambling harms
- additional powers for the Gambling Commission to enable it to tackle black market operators through court orders and work with ISPs to take down and block illegal online gambling sites
- a new ombudsperson to deal with disputes and provide consumer redress for losses caused by operator social responsibility failings
- closing gaps to prevent all forms of gambling by under-18s.
What does this mean for you?
The government is not proposing a new Gambling Act. Most of the reforms will be introduced following consultation and through a mixture of primary but largely secondary legislation, and Gambling Commission powers.
Consultations by the Gambling Commission and DCMS are set to take place this summer, and the government intends that adopted measures will be in force by summer 2024.