UK gambling operators are waiting with baited breath as the government officially kicked off its long-delayed review of the Gambling Act 2005.
On Tuesday (local time), the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS) announced the official launch of “a major and wide-ranging review of gambling laws to ensure they are fit for the digital age, as committed to in the [Conservative party’s 2019 general election] manifesto.”
The DCMS has issued a call for evidence that will run until March 31, 2021. The subjects up for discussion/criticism/poo-flinging include online stake and spend limits, with the government widely expected to press for an online slot limit that mirrors the £2 maximum stake imposed on fixed-odds betting terminals in betting shops back in April 2019.
Also up for grabs are gambling age limits and the future parameters of promotional offers and gambling advertising. The latter is most certainly to encompass sports sponsorship, which has proven a consistent target for the usual UK media suspects, although even football fans are now expressing weariness at the ubiquity of gambling logos on team shirts.
The review will also consider the UK Gambling Commission’s “role and powers.” The UKGC has become something of a parliamentary whipping boy, with some MPs routinely denigrating the regulator as “unfit for purpose” and far too cozy with the operators it oversees.
Nigel Huddleston, Minister for Sport, Tourism and Heritage, said Tuesday that the plan was to ensure that the UKGC “can keep pace with the licensed sector and tackle the black market.” DCMS secretary Oliver Dowden added that the industry “has evolved at breakneck speed,” making the Gambling Act 2005 “an analogue law in a digital age.”
One change that has already been decided is raising the minimum age for playing the National Lottery from its current 16 years to 18. The DCMS said the change will take effect starting October 2021, although the current plan is for online sales – which recently hit a new record during the pandemic lockdown of retail sales – to be restricted to 18+ as of April.
The government did offer faint hope that the knives aren’t completely out for the gambling sector, noting the goal was to “ensure customer protection is at the heart of the regulations, while giving those that gamble safely the freedom to do so.”