UK Government Set to Announce Changes to Gambling Act Next Month

The UK government will outline their proposed changes to the 2005 Gambling Act on March 31 2021 with online slot sites and casinos at the heart of the changes.

Gambling in Wales is not devolved which means that the Welsh government must adhere to the 2005 UK Gambling Act.

In a policy paper published on the government’s website, Nigel Huddleston, the Minster for Sport, Tourism and Heritage stated that the government are “committed to review it [the Gambling Act] to make sure it is fit for the digital age.”

The Gambling Act became a part of UK law in 2005. However, gambling has changed enormously in the 16 years since due to the spread of the internet and smartphones.

According to Mr Huddleston, the government needs to ask questions as to whether the current regulatory framework is effective in protecting players online, he said:

“Smartphones have given opportunities to gamble online almost anywhere and at any time, fast-paced innovation in product design and advertising, and new opportunities to harness technology for the protection of players.”

Mr Huddleston goes on to state that there must be a balance between protecting players and allowing freedom to UK adults.

“This Review is about using the evidence to assess whether we have the balance of regulation right. Gambling is a fun leisure activity for many people, with nearly half of adults gambling each month.

“We respect the freedom of adults to choose how they spend their money and the value of a responsible industry which protects players, provides jobs and pays taxes.”

In 2016, the government reviewed the regulations on gaming machines, specifically Fixed Odds Betting Terminals (FOBTs). This led to legislation to cut the maximum stake on FOBTs to £2.

2020 witnessed the government issue a ban on all credit card gambling and made it mandatory for all gambling operators to be signed up to GAMSTOP – the National online gambling self-exclusion scheme.

The review of the Act gives lawmakers the opportunity to issue improvements and ensure players remain protected. New slot sites are launched online in the UK on a regular basis. As are websites which offer players lots of other ways to gamble. Therefore, it is imperative that the Gambling Act is updated so that it coincides with technological advancements which have taken place between 2005 and 2021.

What Changes Can Be Expected?

The UK government is under pressure to make sweeping changes. However, several ministers have come out to state that whilst they believe changes are necessary, they do not intend to limit people’s freedoms. The government are expected to find a middle ground between freedom, personal responsibility and safety.

The preferred ways for the UK population to gamble online remains via casinos, horse racing and sports. Since the UK entered lockdown in 2020, statistics indicate that online gambling has increased as a greater number of people are spending more time in-doors.

There have been calls for restrictions to be placed on the amount that can be staked on slot machines. Currently, UK gamblers can bet up to £500 on a single spin of a slot machine.

Gambling companies have been lobbying UK politicians in the hope that any changes made are not too draconian or extreme.

Ian Proctor, the UK Chairman of Flutter Entertainment which owns industry giants Paddy Power and SkyBet has admitted that the Gambling Act does need updating but is adamant that gambling is a leisure activity for lots of people and gives them a great deal of pleasure.

Flutter Entertainment recently hired former MP Tom Watson as its advisor. Tom Watson has been one of the most outspoken voices in Westminster in regard to the gambling industry.

When Will the New Changes be Announced?

The government is currently requesting evidence from all parties with an interest in the way gambling is regulated in Great Britain. The call for evidence will close at midnight on Wednesday 31 March 2021. It is expected that the government will announce what changes will be made to the Gambling Act in April 2021. However, it could take several months before any final decisions are made.

Welsh law will follow any changes made to the Gambling Act.