The long-awaited gambling white paper setting out government proposals to make regulation of the sector “fit for the digital age” is expected to be published today.
Campaigners are hopeful it will include plans for affordability checks and the introduction of a statutory levy on gambling operators to pay for research, education and treatment of problem gambling.
Other measures hoped to feature include a reduction in stakes for online slot games to match those found in land-based gambling and the creation of a gambling ombudsman to deal with customer complaints.
However, reports suggest that the majority of measures, including the exact level of stake limits of online slot machines and curbs on digital marketing such as “free” bets or bonuses, will be subject to further consultation, signalling even more delay to long-awaited changes.
The government launched its gambling review in December 2020 but publication of the subsequent white paper has been the subject of repeated delays due to a succession of ministerial changes.
Ministers from the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, including gambling minister Stuart Andrew and culture secretary Lucy Frazer, are due to answer questions in the House of Commons on Thursday.
Writing in The Times today, Ms Frazer said the regulations towards gambling have not matched the advancements in the industry, particularly due to the rise of smartphones and the internet.
“British punters spend almost £10 billion a year on online casino games, sports betting and other forms of commercial gambling,” Ms Frazer said.
“Our phones have opened up a digital wonderland where everyone can access a maze of flashing slot machines, virtual races and blackjack tables.
“That’s why the government is committed to an overhaul of the rules with an approach centred on balance: to protect the most vulnerable, but not get in the way of the majority of people who want to have a flutter.”
Ms Frazer said the gambling white paper will target the power balance between punters and operators, it will do more to protect children and fund research on how to prevent gambling addiction in the future.
Campaigners have called for a ban on gambling advertising and sponsorship but the Premier League has already announced a voluntary ban on gambling sponsorship from the front of match day shirts.
The Premier League also said it was working with other sports on the development of a new gambling sponsorship code.
Zoe Osmond, chief executive of charity GambleAware, said: “Gambling harm is a serious public health issue, which can affect anyone.
“As the leading independent charity and strategic commissioner of gambling harm prevention and treatment across Great Britain, we look forward to the publication of the White Paper and with it, further regulation to prevent gambling harm.”
Press Association – Josie Clarke