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UK Government Publishes its Gambling White Paper

DCMS has today published its long-awaited gambling white paper. The growth of online gambling since the 2005 Act led to the review, promised in the Conservative 2019 manifesto. So what does it say and what does it mean for the UK’s £8 billion industry? The Government’s priority for the white paper is to reduce the risk of bettors losing a lot of money in very little time, so focuses heavily on online slots and slot machines. There are elements of the white paper which impact other areas of gambling, with a knock-on effect on sports too.

The White Paper includes proposals for all major sports governing bodies to sign-up to a ‘cross-sport Code of Practice’ on gambling sponsorship. It will be designed to improve standards where gambling sponsorship is prevalent in sport similar to what is in place in the alcohol industry.

The Gambling Commission will consult on two forms of financial risk check. Firstly, background checks at moderate levels of spend, to check for ‘financial vulnerability indicators’. The Government proposes these should take place at £125 net loss within a month or £500 within a year. Second, at higher levels of spend (the Government proposes thresholds of £1,000 net loss within 24 hours or £2,000 within 90 days), there should be a more detailed consideration of a customer’s financial position. The Government also proposes that the triggers for enhanced checks should be halved for those aged 18 to 24 given evidence on increased risk.

A statutory levy will be introduced to fund Research, Education and Treatment (RET), and will replace the current voluntary system.The Government will consult on the details of how the levy will be designed including proposals on the total amount to be raised by the levy and how it will be constructed and will. The consultation will take into account the differing association of different sectors with harm and/or their differing fixed costs.

New powers will be given to the Gambling Commission to tackle and block unlicensed black market gambling firms from operating in the United Kingdom.The White Paper proposes reforming the fee structure for the Gambling Commission to give it greater flexibility to respond to any emerging risks and challenges posed by the industry.

The white paper recommends substantial amounts of primary legislation which would require Parliamentary scheduling that does not currently exist given the end of this Parliamentary session could be 18 months away. The post-white paper consultation period itself could take anywhere between six months to twelve months, leaving very little time to design legislation.

It is not likely that we will see regulatory reform delivered in this Parliamentary session. All eyes now look to what commitments will be made by both main Parties in their respective manifestos in the run-up to the next election.

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