Government Review of Gambling Act 2005 is launched

The UK Government has today (8 December 2020) launched its review of the Gambling Act 2005.

It has also confirmed that:

UPDATE: You can now read:

  • here our Guide to the Gambling Act Review (with details of its Terms of Reference and the accompanying Call for Evidence) and
  • here our comments on the UK Government response to the House of Lords Select Committee Gambling Industry Report.

The Government’s press release confirming the launch of the review (that you can download below) reads as follows:

Government launches review to ensure gambling laws are fit for digital age

The Culture Secretary has launched a major and wide-ranging review of gambling laws to ensure they are fit for the digital age as committed to in the manifesto.

  • National Lottery minimum age raised to 18 to protect young people
  • Online stake limits, gambling advertising and age limits to be considered
  • Gambling Commission’s role and powers will also be looked at

Online restrictions, marketing and the powers of the Gambling Commission will be looked at as part of a call for evidence, to examine in detail how gambling has changed over the past 15 years.

Protections for online gamblers like stake and spend limits, advertising and promotional offers and whether extra protections for young adults are needed will all be explored.

The findings will be used to inform any changes to the Gambling Act 2005 to ensure customer protection is at the heart of the regulations, while giving those that gamble safely the freedom to do so.

The review will also look at evidence on the action customers can take where they feel operators have breached social responsibility requirements, such as intervening to protect customers showing clear signs of problematic play, and how to ensure children and young people are kept safe from gambling-related harm.

The Government recognises the need to balance the enjoyment people get from gambling with the right regulatory framework and protections.

It has also been announced today that the minimum age for playing the National Lottery will be raised from 16 to 18 from October 2021.

Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, Oliver Dowden, said:

“Whilst millions gamble responsibly, the Gambling Act is an analogue law in a digital age. From an era of having a flutter in a high street bookmaker, casino, racecourse or seaside pier, the industry has evolved at breakneck speed.

This comprehensive review will ensure we are tackling problem gambling in all its forms to protect children and vulnerable people. It will also help those who enjoy placing a bet to do so safely.

This builds upon our clear track record of introducing tough measures to protect people from the risk of gambling harm – banning the use of credit cards, launching tighter age verification checks and cutting the maximum stake on fixed odds betting terminals.”

Minister for Sport, Tourism and Heritage Nigel Huddleston said:

“We’re committed to protecting young people from gambling related harm which is why we are raising the minimum age for the National Lottery. Patterns of play have changed since its inception, with a shift towards online games, and this change will help make sure the National Lottery, although already low-risk, is not a gateway to problem gambling.”

It follows a range of measures recently introduced by the Government to protect consumers from the risk of gambling-related harm. These include cutting the maximum stake on fixed odds betting terminals, bringing in tighter age and identity checks for online gambling, banning gambling using credit cards and expanding national specialist support through the NHS Long Term Plan.

In September the Government launched a call for evidence to explore young people’s experiences of loot boxes in video games. This will provide a clearer picture of the size of the loot box market in the UK and fully examine any evidence of harms or links to problem gambling.

The review of the Gambling Act 2005 will also consider the Gambling Commission’s powers and resources to ensure it can keep pace with the licensed sector and tackle the black market.

In October the Gambling Commission introduced new rules on VIP schemes, and has called for evidence around how to ensure operators identify and intervene where people are at risk of harm, including through carrying out affordability checks. The Commission will also soon set out new rules on safer game design for online slots and withdrawing winnings.

Alongside the launch of the review, the Government is announcing its decision to raise the minimum age to play the National Lottery from 16 to 18, to protect young people from gambling related harm.

Since it began in 1994 the National Lottery’s games portfolio has changed significantly and there has been a growing trend towards online play and instant win games like scratchcards. Following a consultation, from October 2021 it will be illegal to sell all National Lottery products to under 18s.

The Government is working with the Gambling Commission and Camelot to roll out the new age limit across the National Lottery products as quickly as possible and to ensure that it is in place by October. Under current plans, online sales to 16 and 17 year olds will stop in April 2021.

Notes to editors

  • The call for evidence will run for 16 weeks and will close on 31 March 2021.
  • Changes around the National Lottery minimum age will be brought into effect by October 2021 at the latest.
  • The Government has also published its response to the House of Lords Select Committee report on the Social and Economic Impact of the Gambling Industry.
  • The first three of up to 14 new specialist clinics are open as part of the NHS Long-Term Plan to expand the geographical coverage of NHS services for people who experience serious gambling problems. A dedicated children and young person’s service operates out of the National Problem Gambling Clinic in London.
  • The Department for Health and Social Care is working with the NHS and GambleAware to ensure best use of all available funding, and to align and integrate the expansion of treatment services across the system so patients get the right treatment at the right time.

In referring to a range of measures recently introduced by the Government to protect consumers from the risk of gambling-related harm”, the press release mistakenly conflates action taken by the Government (i.e. cutting the maximum stake on fixed odds betting terminals and expanding national specialist support through the NHS Long Term Plan) with action taken by the Gambling Commission (i.e. bringing in tighter age and identity checks for online gambling and banning gambling using credit cards). However, the announcement contains no major surprises otherwise.

You can read our separate reports in relation to the above-mentioned:

Responding to the launch of the Government’s Gambling Review, Michael Dugher, chief executive of the Betting and Gaming Council, has said:

As the standards body for the regulated industry, we strongly welcome the launch of the Government’s Review. We called for it to be wide-ranging and evidence-led, and it provides an important opportunity to drive further changes on safer gambling introduced by the industry in the past year.

Problem gambling may be low at around 0.7 per cent and as the DCMS has said there is no evidence that it has increased in the last 20 years, but one problem gambler is one too many. So I hope Ministers will focus in with laser-like precision on problem gamblers and those at risk. The Government must ensure that any changes do not drive people to the unregulated black market online, where there aren’t any safeguards to protect vulnerable people.

Our members do not allow betting by under-18s, so we welcome in particular confirmation of the Government’s decision to ban 16 and 17-year-olds from playing the National Lottery. It’s got to be one rule for all.

The review must also take account of the huge economic contribution made by the betting and gaming industry, which employs over 100,000 people. This includes £8.7 billion a year in Gross Value Added and over £3.2 billion to HM Treasury in tax. In addition, horse racing receives over £350 million per year through the horse racing industry levy, media rights and sponsorships, while betting companies spend over £40m a year on the English Football League and its clubs.

Other sports, including rugby league, snooker and darts also receive millions of pounds in sponsorship from our members, while casinos contribute over £120 million to the tourism economy each year.

Millions of people enjoy an occasional flutter on sports, on bingo, on the Lottery, in casinos and online. I hope that everyone has their say in the Review – including millions of customers who enjoy betting safely, as well as the hardworking men and women employed in the industry.

The Gambling Commission has also welcomed publication of the Gambling Act Review Call for Evidence, stating:

The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) has launched the Gambling Act Review with the publication of a Call for Evidence into the Gambling Act 2005 today.

The Call for Evidence, which will run until 31 March 2021, will look at online restrictions, marketing and the powers of the Gambling Commission as part of a major and wide-ranging review of gambling laws.

Responding to the publication of the Call for Evidence, Gambling Commission CEO, Neil McArthur said:

“We welcome the government’s Review of the Gambling Act which will also consider our powers and resources. Our job is to make gambling safer and the Review creates an opportunity to build on the progress we have made to protect players and the public – such as strengthened age and identity verification, strict new guidance for so-called VIP schemes and banning gambling with credit cards.

As the statutory adviser to the Secretary of State we look forward to contributing our advice to help with the government’s Review and we will continue our close working relationship with DCMS as the Review proceeds. We’ve made it clear to gambling operators that we will continue to work at pace to take action to protect consumers while the Review of the Gambling Act is underway.”

Read the Call for Evidence and have your say.

In welcoming the Review, former Conservative Party Leader (and Vice-Chair of the Gambling-Related Harm APPG), Sir Iain Duncan-Smith has called for a more powerful regulator to replace Gambling Commission. His website records his exchange on the floor of the House of Commons with Nigel Huddleston as follows:

Sir Iain Duncan Smith welcomes the announcement of a comprehensive review of the Gambling Act and calls on the Government to consider replacing the Gambling Commission with a more powerful regulator.

Sir Iain Duncan Smith (Chingford and Woodford Green) (Con)

I thank my hon. Friend for his statement, which marks the beginning of a real sea change in our attitude towards the gambling abuses that have taken place. On that point, I pay tribute to the hon. Member for Swansea East (Carolyn Harris), whose chairing of the all-party parliamentary group on gambling related harm has been phenomenal, and to the vice chair, the hon. Member for Inverclyde (Ronnie Cowan). We have worked very hard together to try to drive this moment. I have to say to my hon. Friend the Minister that we want all the evidence we have taken over the last couple of years to be part of the inquiry. I would also like the all-party parliamentary group to appear in front of it.

May I press my hon. Friend on one particular point? He knows about the abuse of VIP schemes and about the behaviour of the gambling companies, which have been appalling in the way they have used people. Is it not now time, instead of looking only at the powers of the Gambling Commission, to get rid of the Gambling Commission altogether and institute a body as powerful as, say, Ofcom or all the other bodies that monitor and regulate these industries? Now is the time to make bold moves, to make sure we get proper control and that the abuses and the addiction end.

Nigel Huddleston

I thank my right hon. Friend for all his work in this important area, and the people he mentioned who have also campaigned for such a long time. We know that there have been problems with VIP schemes. We have acted on them already, but that does not mean that further action is not necessary. I am confident that the evidence-led review may reveal further options and avenues. I welcome his input into all areas under consideration. As I said, the Gambling Commission’s scope and resources are part of that review. I welcome his further comments.