More signs of 2020 looking set to become a challenging year for the gambling industry

The Financial Times has reported that Conservative Party peer, Lord Chadlington (a vocal campaigner on safer gambling and Vice-Chair of the Gambling Related Harm All-Party Parliamentary Group) is announcing the establishment of an independent charity (called Action Against Gambling Harm) that will administer funds raised by the UK’s five largest gambling companies for safer gambling initiatives, including the treatment of gambling harms.

By way of background, on 2 August 2019, GVC announced that they – together with bet365, Flutter Entertainment (i.e. Paddy Power and Betfair), Sky Betting & Gaming, and William Hill – had asked Lord Chadlington to chair an independent committee that would recommend how best to administer such funds. You can download the announcement below.

At the time, a spokesperson for the “big 5” companies commented:

We are absolutely committed to providing further funding toward treatment and other responsible gambling initiatives, and we believe the committee will identify and recommend how best to deploy effectively this investment. We believe this is an important step towards creating a safer gambling environment and look forward to reviewing and implementing its recommendations later this year

and Lord Chadlington said:

The committee will consult widely to formulate its recommendations taking account in particular of the views of government, regulators, the third sector, gambling operators and those with lived experience. I am pleased to accept the invitation to chair this committee particularly as the five gambling companies are committed to implementing any reasonable recommendations it may make. I will announce the membership of the committee by mid-September.

The committee presently comprises Lord Chadlington (as chairman), Liz Ritchie (co-founder with her husband of the charity Gambling With Lives) and Tracey Crouch MP (former DCMS Minister with responsibility for gambling, who spearheaded the FOBT maximum stake cut that came into force in April this year).

Referring to Action Against Gambling Harms, Lord Chadlington is reported to have “insisted the new body would be independent of the gambling industry and that lobbying from gambling companies to fund a certain project would see that project excluded from future grants”.

Of particular note is that the Financial Times article (entitled “Gambling addiction body warns on UK’s outdated law”) attributes the following additional comments to Lord Chadlington:

  1. “The Gambling Act is absolutely certainly not fit for purpose in 2020 because when it was drawn up in 2005 we had about 18 per cent internet penetration in the country and now we are at over 90 per cent, so there is very little in the Act that deals with online” and
  2. “When you look at children playing on their mobile phones, the intensity and the periods of time they play are concerning because they do it so much. If they are actually creating mental pathways that lead them to gamble, that is something we need to regulate”.

Many would disagree with Lord Chadlington’s first point above, particularly taking into account changes to remote gambling provisions in the 2005 Act when the Gambling (Licensing and Advertising) Act 2014 came into force on 1 November 2014. In relation to his second point, as Lord Chadlington acknowledges in the Financial Times article, more work is needed to assess whether children playing games online leads to gambling.

With all four major political parties making General Election manifesto commitments to make fundamental changes to gambling regulation and legislation in the UK, 2020 looks set to be an interesting (and, quite possibly, challenging) year ahead for the industry!