JCDGB Press Notice 10

Session 2003-04, 7 April 2004

Publication of Report




The Joint Committee on the Draft Gambling Bill will publish its report on Wednesday 7th April 2004 at 10.30am (HL Paper 63, HC 139, Session 2003 - 04). A summary of the report and a link to its conclusions and recommendations is included in this Press Notice.  The Committee will hold a press conference to launch the report.

The report can be ordered from The Stationery Office (tel: 0845 702 3474) or accessed from 4.00pm on Wednesday 7th April via the Committee's website at: www.parliament.uk/parliamentary_committees/jcdgb/jcdgb_reports_and_publications.cfm

Announcing the publication of the report at the press conference, John Greenway MP, Chairman of the Committee, is expected to say [check against delivery]: 

"Reform of the law on gambling is long overdue.  The existing law has been described as being "in a mess", and those who have to use it - in particular the current regulator, the Gaming Board, are crying out for change.  But this is a complex area which generates strong views, as we have heard during our long and detailed inquiry.   

Although the Department for Culture, Media and Sport has shown its commitment to pre-legislative scrutiny, we have not had an easy task.  The draft Bill was delivered to us in four tranches.  It now stands at well over 250 clauses.  Key documents and policy guidance have not yet been produced.  There is still more to do, and we believe that there is a case for renominating this Committee once certain policy decisions have been taken.  But we do not see the proposed legislation as fundamentally flawed.  We make recommendations - nearly 140 in all - both in relation to policy and drafting, but there is no reason why the Gambling Bill should not be introduced in the current session of Parliament. 

Many of the recommendations that we make relate to limiting the impact that this legislation could have on the number of people in the United Kingdom with a gambling problem.  The Government must go into this with its eyes open.   We do not believe that it is acceptable that casinos, once they reach a certain size, should be entitled to have as many high value slot machines as they want.  We do not believe that fruit machines should be in fish and chip shops and taxi offices.  We take the view that different parts of Government, including the Department of Health, must work together to form a proper strategy to address this public health issue, and that both the Government and the industry should foot the bill. 

There has been a great deal of negative publicity about betting in particular in recent weeks, which demonstrates the need for a strong regulator within a proper legislative framework.  We think that the proposed Gambling Commission has the powers to deal with these problems.   There has also been a considerable amount of speculation about the future of betting exchanges.  We think exchanges are a good thing.  They must not be forced abroad by unnecessary regulation.  But we have concluded that it is in the interest of the exchanges themselves, their customers, and sport at large, that those who lay bets to earn a living on the exchanges are registered with the new Gambling Commission, and we recommend that the Government takes steps to organise this. 

There are many other important issues that we cover in detail in the 657 paragraphs of this report.  There is a summary in the report and a list of conclusions and recommendations.  There is also a detailed clause-by-clause commentary on the draft Bill listing points made in evidence to us and the Government's response to them.   

We have made constructive criticism of the Government's proposals, we now urge the Department for Culture, Media and Sport to adopt our recommendations and introduce this legislation without delay.  The Government must not drop this Bill because it perceives it to be difficult." 

Press conference details 

The press conference will take place in the Grimond Room, Portcullis House, Westminster on Wednesday 7th April 2004 at 10.30am. Entrance is on the Victoria Embankment, Westminster (see below for a map link).  Visitors should allow 20 minutes to clear security. 

Contacts

Interviews with the Chairman of the Committee:
Sarah Fitch, 020 7219 5483
General media inquiries: Liz Parratt, 020 7219 8978 (mobile) Committee secretariat (and interviews with Committee members): 020 7219 8388

Membership

Chairman: John Greenway MP (Ryedale) (Conservative)

Janet Anderson MP (Rossendale & Darwen) Labour   
Tony Banks MP (West Ham) Labour   
Jeff Ennis MP (Barnsley East & Mexborough) Labour   
Alan Meale MP (Mansfield) Labour   
Richard Page MP (South West Hertfordshire) Conservative   
Dr John Pugh MP (Southport) Lib Dem   
Tony D. Wright MP (Great Yarmouth) Labour

The Rt Hon Lord Brooke of Sutton Mandeville (Conservative)
Lord Donoughue of Ashton (Labour)   
Lord Falkland (Lib Dem)   
Lord Faulkner of Worcester (Labour)   
Baroness Golding (Labour)   
Lord Mancroft (Conservative)   
Lord Wade of Chorlton (Conservative)   
Lord Walpole (Cross Bencher)

For maps and directions to Parliament please click on the link below:

http://www.parliament.uk/visiting/maps.cfm

Summary

This Report comments in detail on the draft Gambling Bill, the bulk of which was published in November 2003. It has been unanimously agreed. We make 139 recommendations suggesting modifications to either the clauses themselves, or the underlying policy, based on the evidence we received.

Although many of the changes we recommend are aimed at ensuring that the Government proceeds more cautiously than was recommended by the Budd review and as envisaged in the subsequent White Paper, A Safe Bet for Success, we think that the overall framework of the draft Bill is about right. In particular, we agree with the objectives of the Gambling Commission set out in Clause 1 of the draft Bill: preventing gambling being a source of crime and disorder, being associated with crime or being used to support crime, ensuring that gambling is conducted in a fair and open way, and protecting children and other vulnerable persons from being harmed or exploited by gambling. For these objectives fully to be realised the Government must ensure that access to high value gaming machines is more restricted than was first envisaged. Our other concerns relate to specific policy issues and the drafting of certain clauses.

Almost all the witnesses we heard from stressed the need for legislating quickly - including GamCare, the charity looking after people with gambling problems, and the Gaming Board, which currently regulates parts of the industry. We agree. This legislation is necessary and urgent. If the legislation were delayed we anticipate that there will be a sharp increase in gambling of doubtful legality. We see no reason why our comments could not be incorporated and the Bill introduced before the end of this session of Parliament, for carry over to the 2004-05 Session. This will ensure that the potential social and economic benefits of the provisions are not lost.

Some of the areas we were scrutinising have been subject to considerable media comment in recent times, in particular the use of betting exchanges. We commend the exchanges for their co-operation with us and the sporting regulators, their shrewd business model and the audit trail they can produce. But we do suggest that those who are effectively using the exchanges to lay bets professionally (i.e. above a certain frequency and value threshold) should be regulated in some way, though this should be neither onerous nor costly.

We also discuss in depth the Government's proposals relating to casinos. In our opinion, key policy issues between the Department for Culture, Media and Sport and the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister relating to planning have not been addressed. These relate in particular to the policy which will apply to the siting of so-called 'resort casinos'. An announcement will be made this summer, and we think that we should be reconstituted to examine it.

Throughout our inquiry we have been minded to examine the impact that the proposals in the draft Bill could have on so-called problem gambling. Almost all of the evidence we have received points to the fact that this legislation would increase the number of people in the United Kingdom with a gambling problem. However, it also takes steps to mitigate this. Operators will be required to take social responsibility seriously. Contributions to the Responsibility in Gambling Trust will be used to research contentious issues, and help those who are in difficulties. We make several recommendations to reduce the potential impact of the draft Bill, in particular we suggest that no casino should be permitted unlimited numbers of gaming machines. We also comment on key areas in which more research is necessary, including the continued use of low-value gaming machines by children.

The draft Bill establishes a single regulator for the gambling sector: the Gambling Commission. Two areas are excluded from its remit: spread betting and the National Lottery. We believe that the principle of single regulation is the right one, and accordingly recommend that, over time, the current regulatory roles of the National Lottery Commission and the Financial Services Authority (as it relates to spread betting) should be reviewed.

The Gambling Commission will be formed from the existing Gaming Board, and will have considerable transitional responsibilities. We are critical that the Government did not introduce a paving bill to ensure that the Board had the constitutional authority to carry out these functions earlier; at the moment much of this work has to wait until after second reading of the Bill - another reason to introduce this Bill as soon as possible. The draft Bill gives the Gambling Commission strong powers of enforcement and sanctions. We agree that they are needed.

The Report covers a number of complex areas, and cannot be summarised in two pages - at over 600 paragraphs, it is one of the longest Committee Reports of recent times. A list of our conclusions and recommendations is included. In addition to the Report, we append a schedule listing all the drafting comments we received, and the Department's response to them.

We are critical in the Report that we did not have the full text of the draft Bill before we reported, and that key policy documents had not been prepared, because a shadow Commission had not been formally established. But we do note that the Department for Culture, Media and Sport made its best efforts to supply us with as much information as it could, and we commend its commitment to making pre-legislative scrutiny work.

This Report does not mark the end of the debate; it represents another step in the process. While it is - in our opinion - the most comprehensive parliamentary inquiry into gambling in recent years, our timetable has been very tight, and many of the subjects we cover are worthy of even greater consideration. We hope, therefore, that our thoughts will contribute to a continuing dialogue between Government, Parliament and all interested parties about this complex subject.

Summary of conclusions and recommendations

A summary of conclusions and recommendations can be accessed from 4.00pm on Wednesday 7th April via the Committee's website at:

www.parliament.uk/parliamentary_committees/jcdgb/jcdgb_reports_and_publications.cfm