Time to act to reduce gambling-related harm, says Lords report
02 July 2020
The House of Lords Select Committee on the Social and Economic Impact of the Gambling Industry today warns that more needs to be done to prevent gambling-related harm. The liberalisation of gambling by the Gambling Act 2005, the universal adoption of smart phones, and the exploitation of soft-touch regulation by gambling operators has created a perfect storm of addictive 24/7 gambling. The Committee expects the Government and the regulator to make changes now. Many of the report's recommendations do not need legislation, and all of them are urgent if consumers are to be protected and lives saved.
The Chair of the Committee, Lord Grade of Yarmouth said:
“Most people who gamble, enjoy it safely. However, gambling related-harm has made the lives of two million people miserable. It leads to hundreds of people each year taking their own lives, leaving families and friends devastated.
“The behaviour of some gambling operators, where vulnerable people were targeted with inducements to continue gambling when the operators knew they could not afford to, shocked the Committee.
“Urgent action by the Government is required. Lax regulation of the gambling industry must be replaced by a more robust and focussed regime which prioritises the welfare of gamblers ahead of industry profits.
“Addiction is a health problem which should be treated by the NHS and paid for by gambling industry profits. The Government must impose a mandatory levy on the industry. The more harmful a gambling product is, the higher the levy the operator should pay.
“Only time will tell if the harm caused by gambling has been exacerbated by the coronavirus lockdown.
“Our report makes some 66 recommendations which we believe will begin to the address this huge problem.”
The Committee sets out a range of recommendations across different areas to reduce gambling-related harm.
- The gambling industry offers a variety of products to consumers, including some which can be highly addictive. The Gambling Commission should create a system for testing all new games against a series of harm indicators, including their addictiveness and whether they will appeal to children. A game which scores too highly on the harm indicators must not be approved.
- The equalisation of speed of play and spin, so that no game can be played quicker online than in a casino, bookmaker or bingo hall.
- The Gambling Commission must explain the minimum steps which operators should take when considering customer affordability, and make clear that it is for the operator to take the steps which will enable them to identify customers who are betting more than they can afford.
- The creation of a statutory independent Gambling Ombudsman Service, modelled on the Financial Ombudsman Service, to settle disputes between gambling operators and gamblers.
- The Government must act immediately to bring loot boxes within the remit of gambling legislation and regulation.
- Gambling operators should no longer be allowed to advertise on the shirts of sports teams or any other visible part of their kit. There should also be no gambling advertising in or near any sports grounds or sports venues.
- Problem gambling is a common mental health disorder, and the NHS has the same duty to treat it as to treat any other disorder. Last year the NHS promised to open 15 new clinics. It should do this before 2023 and establish a comparable number within the following few years.
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