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UK white paper reforms aimed at reducing gambling harm

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UK government reviews the Gambling Act of 2005 and releases White Paper introducing reforms to reduce gambling harm.


Following the review of the Gambling Act of 2005, the UK government will work with the UK Gambling Commission and others to reform the regulation and legislation of the igaming sector.

In a recent Sky News TV programme, a participant stated that he had registered with Gamstop to self-exclude from participating in online gambling. After notifying them of a simple change of address, he was able to open accounts and continue his online gambling practices, resulting in the loss of thousands of pounds. Such incidents are a testament to the need for reform of the Gambling Act.

Self-exclusion systems in place to protect problem gamblers fail because customers are still able to open accounts after registering.

Industry efforts to self-regulate are insufficient, and campaigners have long awaited the reforms necessary for the online gambling industry.

UK government releases White Paper

Since the government first brought up the topic more than three years ago, the White Paper has raised many questions.

After many delays, the government has released a White Paper outlining a draft of new measures aimed primarily at curbing the gambling harm done to online casino customers in the smartphone era.

Culture Secretary Lucy Frazer announced a host of measures, including a maximum stake for online slots and checks to “better protect” those unable to afford even small losses. The government’s reforms included a new statutory levy on gambling operators to crack down on gambling addiction and promote responsible gambling practices.

Proposed new regulations announced in the White Paper include the following:

  • New stake limit - With a focus on smartphone technology, the long-awaited reforms will introduce a new stake limit for online casinos, with a maximum bet of £2 to £15 per spin, subject to consultation.

There is currently no limit on maximum bets pertaining to online slots. This measure will help prevent substantial financial losses to those most vulnerable to gambling disorders or addiction.

  • Operator levies - Statutory gambling operator levies will be introduced, ensuring they help fund treatment and research through the NHS and other institutions.

Currently, the amount paid by operators is not mandated, but it is likely to be set at 1% of net revenue and expected to raise £140 million per year for education, treatment, and research projects.

  • Loss checks - It also proposed player protection measures to protect those most at risk before they incur harmful or unaffordable losses. Customers losing £125 per month or £500 per year would be checked for court judgments or other credit “black marks.”

These checks will happen against information available online and will not impact gameplay unless there are signs of financial harm, such as bankruptcy or debt to fund gambling activities. More detailed checks will be conducted against higher-spending gamblers.

More power for the UKGC

The UKGC will also be granted additional powers to enableaction to be taken against illegal online casino operators through court orders. The regulator will also work with Internet Service Providers to identify and block unlawful gambling sites.

Rules are to be introduced to prevent bonus offers, such as free bets or spins from causing harm through increased spending. The UKGC will examine how online casino bonuses are constructed and targeted and will inform new rules to stop dangerous practices. Loopholes will also be closed to prevent those under 18 from gambling online.

A new industry ombudsperson will be established to deal with disputes and rulings on redress when customer losses are a result of online casino operators failing to do their duty to ensure player protection.

These are the most comprehensive changes to the Gambling Act of 2005 and are in line with the 2019 manifesto to review and reform the act.

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