Gambling sector warns against ‘naive changes’ in long-awaited white paper
The gambling industry has vowed to back the Chancellor’s economic recovery plan so long as the long-awaited white paper does not bring “well-meaning but naive changes”.
Chief of the Betting and Gaming Council (BGC) Michael Dughe warned that whilst bookies were ready to help Rishi Sunak recover the public finances after the pandemic, he said this should not come at the cost of stunting sector competition or prosperity.
BGC members, which include powerhouses like Entain and Paddy Power, supported 119,000 jobs, generated £4.5bn in tax and contributed £7.7bn to the economy, according to pre-pandemic EY data.
This is also reflected in more recent figures. For instance, industry experts estimate that around 30,000 of those jobs are devoted to digital technologies, while last year the industry ensured over 50,000 employees underwent digital skills training.
Emphasising how the industry is crucial to the government’s levelling-up programme, Dughe suggested that the government needed to avoid stringent measures in its review, which have an overall aim of stamping out problem gambling and quashing black markets.
However, as Dugher explained: “The growth of the unsafe, unregulated black market in online gambling is part of a global trend and it’s foolish to think that there’s an enforcement solution to this.”
He stated that the Gambling Review needed to avoid “intrusive restrictions that drive players to the black market”, and focus on promoting competition instead.
“Anti-gambling campaigners may want to see a smaller regulated industry, but that would be bad news for the economy and the Exchequer”, he stated.
Black market concerns
There are concerns across the sector that the government may introduce too stringent and strict measures to combat addiction, as well as the rise of black market gambling.
A recent study by PwC found that British punters using unregulated sites had risen to 460,000 and the amount staked is now in the billions of pounds.
Nevertheless, industry research has found European countries which brought in stricter regulations saw a spike in black market use, including Norway that introduced a state monopoly for all gaming coupled with restrictions on stakes, strict affordability checks and curbs on advertising.
Now over 66 per cent of all money staked in Norway, goes to the black market. In Italy, where betting and gaming advertising is completely banned, the black market accounts for 23 per cent of money staked.
These sites have none of the safer gambling tools used by the regulated betting and gaming industry, which has been encouraged by the most recent Government figures showing problem gambling rates in the UK are at 0.3 per cent up to December, down from 0.6 per cent 18 months ago.
He warned any new regulations must be evidence led and not risk the huge economic contribution members make.
The white paper, which has already been delayed, is expected in May.