Regulation in the gambling industry is a given. You can’t have a responsible gambling industry without sufficient intervention and supervision from the government. But are the laws and regulations strict enough as they are? Does more need to be done to combat the issue of problem gambling in the UK? Figures show around 260,000 people—0.5% of the population—struggle with gambling addiction, with a further 2.2 million at risk.
Many new restrictions have been suggested as introduced into law for gambling operators in the UK. Let’s look at a few of them, and why they might help the issue of problem gambling.
- Reform of the Gambling Commission
The Gambling Commission is the body which oversees the regulation of the industry, and it has been suggested that their powers and remit are revised to meet the challenge. Its remit, the House of Lords has suggested, should include prevention of harm, both actual and potential. It has also been suggested that the Commission itself ought to demonstrate it is willing to use the powers it already has.
Operating license must be withdrawn for repeat offences and extreme circumstances, which the UKGC seems to have been unwilling to do in many cases.
- Levies on companies
One of the big problems we still face at the moment is a lack of understanding of the problem on a nuts-and-bolts level. This is why it has been suggested to impose mandatory levies on gambling companies, which will then be used to fund research in and treatment of problem gambling. This would certainly be a step in the right direction, as real initiatives are needed to actually understand problem gambling.
For an industry that is worth around £14 billion a year, which also causes such a great deal of harm, taking money out of the industry as levies and putting them back into treating the root causes of problem gambling seems entirely appropriate.
- Customer communications
As ever, one thing which is also under scrutiny is the communications which operators broadcast to their customers. In the modern digital age, where everyone is so easily reachable at all times, it is easier than ever to induce gamblers to continue or restart gambling. There are currently only limited restrictions about the kinds of communications that gambling companies can send out to existing customers.
Future regulations would only allow inducements to gambling in strictly controlled situations and within clear limits. This discourages operators from attempting to solicit further business from problem gamblers.
Of course, advertising is also never free of the scrutinising eye of further regulation. One of the big areas of focus is on major league football, like the Premier League. Nine of the twenty teams in the League are currently sponsored by betting companies and as seen with sites like BoyleSports offering free bets, this advertising can be hugely attractive to gamblers. Future regulations should ban this, many argue. Advertisements in or near any sports ground would also be banned.
Advertising in general should also come under stricter control, if not be more or less outright banned. Celebrity endorsements are suggested to be banned, as well as from famous athletes. The issue of how such advertising affects children is difficult to avoid, and one of the biggest problems with betting advertising in general.
The gambling industry has been more and more strictly regulated over the years, but that doesn’t necessarily mean the restrictions are adequate. It all depends on perspective, and the position that regulation started from. Plainly, there is a big issue to be resolved in the UK around problem gambling. Until the regulations start showing the results of reduced harm, then more must always be done.