BGC statement on House of Lords Committee report
Responding to the report by the House of Lords Committee on the Social and Economic Impact of the Gambling Industry, Michael Dugher comments
Responding to the report by the House of Lords Committee on the Social and Economic Impact of the Gambling Industry, Michael Dugher, Chief Executive of the new standards body the Betting and Gaming Council, said:
“The Betting and Gaming Council welcomes the House of Lords report as a substantial and important report on the future of gambling regulation. There is much in it that we support and whilst we don’t agree with every recommendation, we feel this is an important contribution to the debate and the approach the Lords took was constructive.
“We would now urge the Government to bring forward their planned Review of the Gambling Act without delay and to work with the industry on an evidence-led approach to future regulation.
“The BGC completely agree with the Lords that the challenge for the Government and the industry is to make gambling safer for all, but no less enjoyable for those who do participate safely. Striking the right balance between regulation and not unfairly restricting the majority will be key to a successful Gambling Act Review and we are prepared to engage openly and constructively with Ministers and Parliament on that process.
“The BGC, as the new standards body, are determined that there should be a race to the top on gambling standards and our members are fully behind achieving that goal. The Lords report rightly acknowledges that around 300,000 people are problem gamblers, and we recognise the impact this can have on those around them, but it’s important to remember that the vast majority of the nearly 30 million UK adults who enjoy a flutter every year by either buying a Lottery ticket or having a bet do so safely and enjoyably.
“As both the Government and the Gambling Commission acknowledge, problem gambling levels in the UK have remained stable at around 0.7 per cent of the adult population for nearly two decades and we must now look at what more can be done to identify those individuals and ensure that they use the self-exclusion tools available that block them from all forms of gambling with our members.
“The BGC are already working with the Gambling Commission on new affordability checks and a new code of conduct for game design, including slowing spin speeds on games and removing some in game features.
“We welcome the Committee’s understanding of the role of advertising and the lack of real evidence of any link between gambling advertising and problem gambling. Betting not only provides sport with the vital funding it needs, it also supports the TV channels’ ability to broadcast more sport than would otherwise be possible. Over 50 per cent of all our members’ bets are taken on sport and in turn revenue from these bets return to sport through media rights, advertising and sponsorship.
“Our members have taken great strides in addressing the level of advertising, introducing a whistle to whistle ban on advertising during all sport, which has resulted in an 84 per cent reduction in sports advertising, banning all gaming product advertising during lockdown and have now committed that at least 20 per cent of advertising will be safer gambling messages going forward.
“The report rightly raises concerns about children and gambling. It is vital to understand that the vast majority of that gambling is legal betting between friends, in arcades or on the National Lottery. It is illegal for anyone under the age of 18 to bet with any of our members and we have strict measures in place to prevent any child from accessing our members’ products, whether that is preventing them entering betting shops, ID and age checks at the entrance to casinos or new ID and age verification checks online, which have resulted in hundreds of thousands of accounts being closed. Gambling by under-18s with National Lottery products is clearly a matter for the Government, but we note the Committee’s recommendation that all gambling should be restricted to adults only.
“It is also vital that action is taken against black market operators who do not adhere to our safeguards and checks, and it important that any changes to regulations do not simply drive gamblers into the arms of unscrupulous individuals.
“The BGC are also happy to explore the creation of an independent Ombudsman to judge customer complaints if clear procedures and responsibilities can be agreed that do not conflict with other regulation.
“The report rightly acknowledges the huge economic contribution made by our industry, which pays £3bn a year to the Treasury in tax while also employing more than 100,000 hardworking men and women.
“We are driving significant changes in our industry and will continue to do so. Our members have already introduced a range of measures, including cooling off periods on gaming machines, encouraging deposit limits, monitoring play and spend, closing off VIP schemes to under-25s and massively increasing funding by £100 million for research, education and treatment. Many of these actions mirror recommendations made in the report.
“We support reform and look forward to engaging with the Government on how we ensure a strong future for the regulated industry whilst being 100 per cent focused on driving more changes and higher standards on safer gambling.”