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Gambling White Paper (Part 1)

Article authored by Andrew Tait

UK Gambling White Paper: Proposed Measures & Implications
In April 2023, the Department for Digital Culture, Media & Sport published the highly anticipated UK Gambling White Paper. Our Head of Betting & Gaming Andrew Tait provides an overview of the White Paper, highlighting the key measures and their potential implications for customers, operators and industry suppliers.

In April 2023, the Department for Digital Culture, Media & Sport published the highly anticipated UK Gambling White Paper, which can be found here. The paper brings with it the biggest reforms to the industry in almost two decades. 

In this opening article,  I will set the scene and map out the proposed measures. In later instalments, I will drill down into each measure and provide some commentary on where I think this will lead to and potential implications to customers, operators and industry suppliers. 

The White Paper’s origins can be traced back to December 2020 when the UK government initiated a review of the Gambling Act 2005. The review was prompted by negative press surrounding problem gambling and critical reports on the effectiveness of the Gambling CommissonThese reports highlighted the need for improved regulation and enforcement measures.

In response, the White Paper outlines the policy intentions for reforming gambling laws to adapt to the digital age. The focus is primarily on online gambling, which has been associated with rising problem gambling rates, money laundering, and aggressive advertising targeting minors. 

From 2010 to 2023, problem gambling rates have seen a significant decrease, dropping from 1.3% in 2010 to 0.2% by December 2022. This position change can be attributed to increased self-regulation by industry organisations such as the Betting and Gaming Council, enhanced compliance assessments by the Gambling Commission, and improved compliance technology for monitoring gambling-related risks.

Despite industry improvements, particularly in the online sector, a review of the 2005 Act was deemed necessary. Health Survey data estimates that approximately 300,000 people in Great Britain qualify as problem gamblers. Addressing this issue is crucial due to the extensive harm caused by problem gambling. As a result, the White Paper proposes additional measures based on extensive research and industry consultations to strike a balance between safer gambling practices and a sustainable industry.

In order to achieve this, the White Paper suggests revisiting certain provisions outlined in the Budd Report of July 2001, which played a key role in shaping the 2005 Act and the subsequent regulation of online gambling.

Proposed Measures
The proposals presented in the White Paper serve as a framework for future consultations between the Gambling Commission and the industry, rather than providing a detailed blueprint for new legislation. This has led to disappointment for many, as further delays and uncertainties are anticipated.

These proposals will guide the implementation of amended Licence Conditions and Codes of Practice (LCCP) under the regulatory powers of the Gambling Commission. It’s worth noting that previous consultations, especially those concerning safer product design for online slots, have sometimes overlooked factual evidence and the consensus among stakeholders. It may be argued that the Gambling Commission may interpret consultations independently, draw their own consultations and make changes to the LCCP regardless. 

The appointment of an ombudsman to handle disputes and improvements in the land-based sector, such as the potential increase in machine allowances in casinos, are the only areas within the White Paper that could be considered the outline of new legislation or imminent measures.

In summary, the measures proposed are:

1. Online Protections

These address the online sector only and will have a material impact, where according to the White Paper these measures if implemented to their full will result in an estimated reduction of between 8% and 14% of Gross Gambling Revenue (GGY).

  • Stake limits for Online Slots to address excessive losses and long playing sessions (between a range of £2 to £15 per spin, with reduced limits for 18-24-year-olds of £2 or £4 based on individual risk)
  • Frictionless affordability checks for customers experiencing significant net losses
  • In-depth affordability checks when net losses reach £1,000 within a day or £2,000 within 90 days. For 18-24 year olds this may be halved
  • Safer design for online games, including reduced game speeds and real-time information on losses and time spent, and prevention of simultaneous gameplay
  • Mandatory data sharing between operators on high-risk customers
  • Improve uptake of customer centric safer gambling tools, such as setting of deposit limits during onboarding
  • White label licence applications to face increased scrutiny
  • Prize draws largely circumvent gambling regulation by coming outside the definition of a lottery, if they are reliant on skill-based participation or free entry. However, changes may be brought to tighten the lottery definition to cut down on those clearly exploiting this loophole

2. Marketing and Advertising

  • Limits on bonus offers, specifically free bets, to prevent potential harm
  • Improved opt-in procedures to ensure targeted marketing is product-specific
  • Use of technology to enhance age-gating and reduce targeting of vulnerable persons on social media platforms
  • Prescribed safer gambling messaging at all touchpoints
  • Sports sponsorship to be reviewed (in the meantime, the Premier League has agreed to voluntarily end front-of-shirt sponsorships by gambling firms from the end of the 25/26 season)

3. Gambling Commission Power and Resources

  • Review of Gambling Commission fees in 2024, likely resulting in increased fees
  • Power for the Gambling Commission to seek orders requiring Internet Service Providers, payment providers, and other ancillary service providers to implement measures to disrupt illegal gambling operators
  • Implementation of a Statutory Levy on operators to fund research, education and treatment of gambling-related harms 

4. Dispute Resolution and Consumer Redress

  • Replacement of multiple Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) providers with a centralised Ombudsman
  • The Ombudsman would adjudicate complaints related to social responsibility and gambling harm where the operator is unable to resolve these and provide information to the Gambling Commission to assist with enforcement planning

5. Children and Young Adults

  • Strengthened measures to prevent underage gambling, particularly in land-based establishments

6. Land Based Gambling

  • Alignment of regulations for different categories of casinos, including machine allowances and payment systems:
    • 1968 Act  small category casinos will be entitled to the same 80 maximum machine allowance as 2005 Act licensed casinos, with the machine-to-table ratio being equalised at 5:1 for large and small 2005 Act and larger 1968 Act casinos 
    • Smaller 1968 Act casinos which do not meet the size requirements will benefit from extra machines on a pro-rata basis commensurate with their size and non-gambling space, and subject to the same machine-to-table ratios

The White Paper presents a series of proposals to address concerns regarding problem gambling and enhance regulation in the UK. While the industry has made significant improvements in recent years, the government deems further measures necessary. In the next instalment of this series, I will delve deeper into each measure, exploring the Gambling Commission’s advice and potential surprises in store during subsequent consultations.

For comprehensive information on the regulatory landscape in Great Britain and other jurisdictions, visit the Advennt digital platform at Stay updated on gambling and skill gaming regulations with insights from expert law firms worldwide.

This article titled “UK Gambling White Paper: Proposed Measures & Implications” was originally published by Ramparts on 27th July 2023 by Andrew Tait, Head of Betting & Gaming at Ramparts. It is being republished here with permission.