Government to review the Gambling Act

Published on 09 June 2021

The question

What legislative changes are being considered to address the risks associated with modern gambling?

Key takeaway

Significant reform of UK gambling legislation is likely to be on its way. Key areas affected are likely to be control of online gambling accounts (including deposits, losses and spending limits), children’s access to gambling products and the role of gambling advertising in particular in sport. The review will also consider how to “future proof” legislation to provide flexibility for regulators responding to rapid technological change.

The background

The landscape of the gambling industry has changed significantly since the Gambling Act 2005 came into force. The internet has fundamentally altered the way people access gambling services, and there is a growing concern about the ease with which vulnerable groups and children can access gambling, the addictive nature of online gambling, and the prevalence of gambling marketing both online and in live televised sport. There has been pressure on the government to review gambling laws for some time, and in 2019 the maximum stake on B2 gaming machines (so called “fixed odds” betting terminals) was cut from £100 to £2. The same year a collective of prominent gambling companies instituted a voluntary ban on advertising during live sport before the watershed.

In December 2020, the government announced a comprehensive review of UK gambling legislation, the aim of which is to reform current regulations to reflect the industry as it is now and will be in years to come.

The development

The Government has launched a call for evidence from the industry to aid the review, which ran until 31 March 2021. The following areas are being considered:

  • the effectiveness of current measures to prevent underage and youth gambling
  • the impact of greater controls at a product level, such as stake and prize limits
  • the benefits and harms of gambling sponsorship arrangements in sport
  • the role and powers of the Gambling Commission.

A white paper containing the findings will be published later in 2021. A good indication of the areas of reform likely to be pursued comes from the
government’s response to a recent House of Lord’s paper on the subject, which was published alongside the call for evidence. This suggests that the review will seek to balance the need for reform with consumer freedoms and commercial interest. For example, in the case of sport and advertising, the government has shown an awareness of the financial reliance many sporting organisations have on gambling sponsorship.

Why is this important?

This review is likely to bring about the most sweeping changes to gambling law since the Gambling Act was introduced in 2005. The government has endorsed the idea of imposing stricter requirements on gambling operators including more affordability checks on consumers, maximum stakes and prize limits, and controls on how gambling interfaces appear online. Some betting platforms will need to change their formats to comply.

Any reform to gambling sponsorship and advertising rules could also mean changes in the sports industry, which is heavily reliant on betting companies for funding. Any sponsorship rule changes could contribute further to the financial difficulty some teams are already facing as a result of the pandemic and a year of empty stadiums.

Any practical tips?

Watch this space, as reform is likely to come in the next twelve months. The government’s objectives include changes to gambling advertising and online products, and any future legislation will have a significant impact on the relationship between gambling and advertising. If your company is involved in either of these industries, you should keep an eye out for announcements.

In the meantime, other changes to betting regulation continue, for example new rule changes for online slot games will come into force on 31 October 2021 and must be fully implemented before then. These are aimed at decreasing the “intensity” of online play.

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