Concerns over Watering Down of UK Gambling Reforms

The wait to find out what the UK government plans are for reviewing the gambling law goes on. The review began in 2020 and it’s now believed a white paper detailing proposals will be published in June. However, rumors are spreading that some planned changes may be being watered down.

A report at the weekend indicated that a suggested mandatory levy on gambling companies may become voluntary. If that is the case, then former Conservative party leader Sir Iain Duncan Smith has promised to declare “war” on the government.

Now a back-bencher in the House of Commons, Smith has often spoken out against Conservative policies. He’s been in favor of a mandatory levy that would see companies making a payment that would fund addiction treatment and research.

Speaking about the mandatory levy not taking place, the MP said that there is clear evidence about “the damage problem gambling can cause” and he “will not compromise” on the levy.

Also upset is Labour MP Carolyn Harris who is the chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on gambling harm. The group already believes that the government should be taking stricter action than has been rumored to be planned.

It’s no surprise therefore that the MP said she is “more than disappointed” at the news. Failure to create the mandatory levy would be “a fantastic opportunity” missed to “completely change the gambling environment.” It would also limit in how much protection can be given to those needing help with their gambling.

The government is no stranger to facing rebellions over their policies for the gambling industry. Previously they ran into trouble over their plans regarding fixed-odds betting machines in bookies. In the end, much lower maximum stakes on the machines were passed into law.

Another area in which the government has planned is the sponsorship of Premier League clubs by gambling companies. Removing betting adverts from the front of shirts has been suggested. Now it is being suggested that the government want to have a voluntary agreement with clubs to do so.

The UK gambling industry is of course worried about what the government has in store for them, says a spokesperson of the gambling portal British Gambler. There have been accusations that the reforms may include “draconian measures” and this will affect the UK online casino operations negatively. That could lead to reduced profits and job losses.

There have been calls by support groups to introduce a mandatory levy. GambleAware believes that a 1% levy on the companies could see around £140 million raised annually. This would lead to “the best-in-class solutions” being used to stop gambling harm.

One concern over the review of the gambling laws is that too tough rules would drive people who enjoy online gambling toward unlicensed sites. That is a situation that would be dangerous indeed. Those sites that do not have licenses with the Gambling Commission do not offer the protection received by the sites that do possess them.

The possibility of setting limits on how much people can gamble is a hugely unpopular measure that could be introduced. A YouGov poll revealed that 56 percent of gamblers are against such a move.  It looks as if June will be the month when we find out just what the government has in mind. Whatever is announced certainly won’t please everyone.

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