Tuesday 16 June 2020 12:01 am

British public supports calls for online gambling restrictions

The British public overwhelmingly supports calls by MPs for restrictions to online gambling, new research has shown, as the betting industry this week gears up for the return of televised sporting events.

Data released today by polling firm Survation revealed that 82 per cent out of 1,525 people surveyed support limits to online gambling spending. The same amount agreed that people under the age of 18 should not be exposed to any form of gambling advertising. 

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It comes as a cross-party group of more than 50 MPs and peers will today publish a report on proposed amendments to the 2005 Gambling Act, urging the government to implement a total ban on gambling adverts.

The all-party parliamentary group report, which pulls together more than a year of research into the gambling industry, will also call for an urgent review of online stakes, deposit and prize limits as well as a complete reclassification of online products. It will call on the government to limit stakes on online slot machines to £2.

The report comes ahead of the Premier League’s return to national TV on Wednesday, which is expected to prompt the restart of gambling adverts after a three-month moratorium during lockdown. 

Gambling welfare campaigners warned that this could cause a betting “frenzy” as punters will be lured in by extra cash from payment holidays.

“It’s clear that the wider public strongly believes there needs to be significant changes to how online gambling is regulated, including greater protections in the amounts people can bet online and how gambing is promoted to young people,” said Carl Shoben, director of strategy at Survation.

“A message for the government is that the support for change cuts across political lines, and our research shows that if anything, more Tory voters than Labour support tighter regulation of the industry.”

Matt Zarb-Cousin, founder of the Clean Up Gambling campaign, added: “The government should commence its review of the Gambling Act as soon as possible to bring our outdated gambling laws into the digital age.”

The Survation poll showed that the public also supported a ban on offshore gambling companies, with three quarters of people surveyed agreeing that only online gambling firms that pay taxes in the UK should be allowed to operate within Britain.

Of the so-called big five gambling firms, only two are fully based in the UK. William Hill is operated by WHG International Ltd, a company registered in Gibraltar. Ladbrokes also operates out of the British overseas territory, while Betfair and Paddy Power, both owned by Flutter Entertainment, are licensed and regulated by the Malta Gaming Authority. 

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A spokesperson for industry lobby group The Betting and Gaming Council said: “We are committed to making more changes and driving up safer gambling standards further and we look forward to working with the government on their forthcoming review.

“It’s important that those who claim not to be anti-gambling or prohibitionist do not drive customers to offshore, black market, illegal operators that don’t have any safeguards, rather than in our current heavily regulated industry that supports over 100,000 jobs and pays over £3bn in tax.”

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