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What Gambling Reform May Mean For The UK

December 07, 2020

- Grant Whittington

With the upcoming review of gambling reform now imminent following its postponement late last year to early 2021, many are left questioning government’s true intentions with new resolve. And with rumours regarding Number 10 Downing Street’s personal push and agenda-driven involvement running rife, the appetite for a sweeping reform of the industry continues to grow – as do concerns over the possible impact of the reform on the livelihoods of many and the industry as a whole.

Though the task initially befell the Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, government sources late last year revealed the keen involvement of Boris Johnson and some of his closest personal advisors.

The PM views the gambling and betting industry as a sector of commerce intent on purposefully exploiting society’s most vulnerable, one of Number 10’s advisers reportedly told the media late last year. Exploiting people in this way is just not him, said insider is rumoured to have said.

Number 10 A Leading Catalyst

Rumoured to have taken a personal interest in the state of gambling regulation in the UK too are Number 10 advisor Dominic Cummins and Policy Unit Director for Downing Street, Munira Mirza.

The 2005 Gambling Act, initially introduced under the rule of Tony Blair and party, completely liberalised the regulation and control of the industry, and to such an extent that it awarded to the UK one of the most relaxed pieces of gambling legislation the entire global industry wide. Number 10’s current involvement, however, is anticipated to ultimately result in entire sections of the act being rolled out of force.

Key Reform Focus Areas

The implications of a majority roll-back are, of course, potentially devastating.

Below are some of the key areas which have attracted a lot of negative focus ever since government first announced its intentions regarding the coming reform:

  • A £2 stake-limit applied to all slot machines.
  • “Waiting” periods, or delays, to be implemented between spins on all slot games.
  • A blanket ban implemented for all VIP programs and any other special bonus enticements.
  • An outright ban on all advertising material relating to gambling and sports betting activity.
  • A deposit cap for all new customers, along with mandatory processes to be set in place for determining financial means, income, etc.
  • A constant and active monitoring of players (customers).

Changes Coming To Slot Machines

Significant and notable too are changes previously proposed regarding how slot machines are permitted to be designed by game-makers.

Anti-gambling activists have repeatedly hampered on the psychological means employed by studios and game-makers in an attempt to make slots more attractive to customers. The use of bright colours and enticing sound effects have recently come under increased amounts of scrutiny, leading to the expectation that a definite attempt will be made in terms of reducing the level of attraction posed by slots to those who suffer from addictive gambling behaviour.

UK The Author Of Its Own Demise

The fact remains that the gambling and betting industry is and remains one of government’s leading sources of income.

In the event that a complete ban is enforced on all forms of gambling advertising, a mass exit of major international operators will without a doubt be in the offing. The most likely outcome in such an event would be operators seen packing up and leaving for the more relaxed regulatory shores of Europe, America, and Canada – leaving government with a gaping hole in its annual budget.

What government is currently engaged in is a precarious and potentially dangerous game of economic cat-and-mouse with one of the country’s most powerful industries. A reform to the extent of that which is currently being proposed could potentially cripple large sections of the local economy – and this right in the midst of the largest financial crisis of the past 300 years.

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