The UK market stands on the precipice of a new era of regulation. Even if, after months of delays and leaks, the general contents of the white paper did not come as a surprise, they nonetheless represent the greatest volume of changes to regulations since the Gambling Act itself was passed in 2005.
The industry may find itself teetering on that precipice for some time, however, with a barrage of consultations beginning over the summer. All sides of the debate have battle-ready strategies honed by years of lobbying experience, so there will be no shortage of viewpoints for the Department for Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS) and UK Gambling Commission to wade through. Not only in official responses to the seven consultations, but also statements in parliament, newspaper editorials and social media outbursts, which will all play a factor, as they have had up until this point.
The biggest ticket consultations set to kick off this summer are on affordability and stake limits.
On affordability, the government has proposed that low-level checks should take place when losses breach £125 a month, or £500 a year. Lucy Frazer said these should be “frictionless”, will affect only around 20 percent of customers and should take place in the background, like credit checks.
Stake limits for online slots will be set somewhere between £2 and £15. Several operators have already voluntarily set a maximum £10 stake limit, so it goes without saying that the top end of the spectrum would have a minimal impact on the market. But pressure on the DCMS to opt for the harshest possible stakes will be intense.
Culture minister Lucy Frazer has promised “swift” action on implementing reforms (once the department decides exactly what those reforms are going to be). And, as a result, there is certain to be pressure from familiar political campaigners to move quickly, including Gambling Related Harm All Party Parliamentary Group Chair Carolyn Harris, however, those same figures will also want their voices heard during the consultations.
All of this “swift” action to introduce reforms is set against the backdrop of a general election in the second half of 2024. Current polling suggests that Labour have a strong chance of unseating the Conservatives, and with a change in regime comes the possibility of new leaders tinkering with carefully laid plans.
Reform campaigners seemed broadly pleased with the white paper’s contents. “Job done!” declared Carolyn Harris in parliament as she responded to Minister Frazer’s speech announcing its release.
But the conversation in the House of Commons soon turned to new angles of attack. There is plenty more dust to kick up during the upcoming summer of consultations, but even once it settles, there remain areas where pressure is certain to be applied.
Advertising, in particular. The Premier League’s voluntary olive branch to ban gambling sponsorships from the front of their matchday shirts appears to have successfully dulled government appetite to restrict gambling advertising more broadly. But as many commentators immediately noted, the most prominent form of gambling advertising in football, featured on pitchside hoardings, remains untouched. When the long list of white paper topics is dealt with, it’s a certainty that Harris and others will return to the issue of gambling advertising and the way in which it is deeply intertwined with sport.