The Report: a damp squib?
The much-awaited publication of the DCMS review into gambling is something of a damp squib: Gambling Minister Tracey Crouch has merely announced yet another consultation. We must all remain in a state of excited (or lethargic) uncertainty, until decisions are at last made after a 12-week consultation ends on 23 January 2018.
The review sets out its stall in impressive language – to “better protect consumers and communities” – but it is light on precisely how that is to be done. I am reminded of King Lear: “I will do such things – what they are yet I know not – but they shall be the terrors of the earth.”
The maximum stakes on Fixed Odds Betting Terminals (FOBTs) are set to be reduced, but by how much remains in doubt. Today’s announcement suggests a range of options for cutting maximum stakes from £100 to between £50 and £2. This issue has been in the air for so long, and the pros and cons of stake reductions discussed ad nauseam, it is difficult to see what more can be learned from another consultation.
FOBTs have become the whipping boy for anti-gambling campaigners, and lazy journalism has given credence to Donald Trump’s coinage “the crack cocaine of gambling”. Whilst it is all but certain that the maximum stakes will be lowered by some amount or other, it remains to be seen whether that will reduce the incidence of problem gambling, or whether problem gamblers will simply find other outlets for their addictions.
A modern King Canute? The DCMS hopes to stem the tide of gambling addiction. But will these measures have any meaningful impact?
As well as the suggested lowering of the maximum stakes on FOBTs, the gambling review report mentions:
The report asks Gambling Commission whether it can assist with “how better tracking and monitoring of play on FOBTs can help with interventions to protect players”.
The “spin speed” – which affects the amount that may be staked (and lost) in a given period of time – is also to be reviewed.
On line gambling
In addition to the 12-week consultation on FOBTs, the Government has announced a package of measures intended to strengthen protections around online gambling and gambling advertising.
Changes to LCCP
The Gambling Commission will consult on changes to the Licence Conditions and Codes of Practice (LCCP) next year, with the aim of “raising standards on player protection online”. Quite how this can be achieved to any meaningful effect remains to be seen, the online environment being notoriously difficult to control.
Responsible gambling campaign
Gambling industry groups such as GambleAware and others, as well as the Gambling Association and broadcasters are to draw up a two year “responsible gambling advertising campaign” to be funded by gambling operators, with airspace and digital media provided (free of charge?) by broadcasters.
New advertising guidelines
The Committees of Advertising Practice (CAP) is to draw up new advertising guidelines to ensure that the content of gambling adverts does not encourage impulsive or socially irresponsible gambling, particularly in problem gamblers.
Under 18s and social media
In addition, the code on responsible gambling advertising is to be strengthened: the Industry Group for Responsible Gambling (IGRG) will attempt to ensure that gambling content and channels cannot be accessed by under-18s via social media. This is an ambitious aspiration, having in mind the ease of accessibility to the Internet, and the availability of software to break through the various barriers against entry.
Gambling Minister Tracey Crouch says:
“It is vital that we strike the right balance between socially responsible growth and protecting the most vulnerable, including children, from gambling-related harm…
…We have seen online gambling grow rapidly and we need to protect players in this space, while also making sure those experiencing harm relating to gambling receive the help they need.”