July is going to be an important month for the UK gambling industry. After a series of delays, it’s been confirmed that the White Paper into the reform of the 2005 Gambling Act will be released in the “coming weeks.”
The gambling industry has been waiting for a while now to find out what the government has in store for them. We already knew that the White Paper had been delivered to 10 Downing Street for a final review of the document.
Then came the problems of the past week that has disrupted the government. That included the resignation of junior culture minister Chris Philp. The Department for Digital Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) has confirmed the imminent publication of the White Paper.
The announcement was made by Nigel Huddleston who is a Parliamentary Undersecretary of State at the DCMS. The White Paper “remains a priority” for the government, he said in the House of Commons on July 7. A lot of work has already been carried out re responsible gambling but more is needed.
There have of course been plenty of rumours about what the White Paper will contain. Many new online casinos in the UK launched in 2022 are ready to adjust their marketing budgets and comply with the new regulations if this comes into effect. Chris Philp has confirmed that “strict measures” are included in the document. He has recently said that it is online casinos and slots that most worry him when it comes to gambling addiction.
Mr Huddleston has revealed that the White Paper won’t deal with loot boxes in video games. That will be dealt with separately, he told Scottish National Party MP Owen Thompson.
One issue that is in the White Paper is fixed-odds betting terminals seen in betting shops. Mr. Huddleston was asked about this by Conservative MP Justin Tomlinson. He’s keen to see the average return rate shown on the terminals for five seconds before a gambler presses the play button. In reply, his fellow Tory MP replied that the White Paper would cover this issue and the UK Gambling Commission will also be looking at this subject on an ongoing basis.
We have some clues therefore on what will and won’t be included in the long-awaited White Paper. There seem to be so many areas that need attention if the gambling laws are to end being outdated.
Chris Phelp’s concerns over online casinos and slots is a good indication of what the White Paper will contain. Affordability checks are likely to play a big part in the content. That’s an issue that many know are needed but will upset a fair number of gamblers.
If the White Paper was to tighten the current situation and see at-risk players being asked to produce their bank statements, expect major arguments. The Betting and Gaming Council (BGC) want to see more help given to those gamblers who have problems. However, the level at which the affordability checks are introduced is important.
If it’s at too low a level, that would likely see gamblers turning their backs on licenced sites. They’d head to unregulated sites and more problems would ensue. The level of protection there is nowhere near as good as with licenced sites.
Placing restrictions on the maximum stake players can make on casino games would also prove unpopular. That took place with the betting machines in bookmakers shops and led to huge losses being incurred.
The long wait seems to be nearly over. A bet on whatever is in the White Paper not being good news for the gambling industry is likely to be a winning one!