Nearly two-thirds of punters warn that forcing limits on their betting will drive them to the black market
Latest polling by YouGov found nearly two thirds
of punters (65%) believe there is a large or substantial risk that
setting limits on the amount of money spent on betting would
drive more people to the unsafe, unregulated black market online.
Polling also found almost 56 per cent of
punters thought the Government should not set limits on how much
money they could bet.
In a further worrying sign for
the Government, Conservative voters and
Brexit supporters from key Red Wall constituencies say that
ministers, in new legislation to be announced
imminently, shouldn’t be “sticking their noses in” by interfering with
individuals having a bet in the UK.
Focus group research conducted by Public
First in key seats the Conservatives must retain at the
next election found voters were concerned about intrusive plans for
punters amid expected widespread reforms of the
Around 22.5 million adults in the UK have a bet each month,
but according to the independent regulator the Gambling Commission, the rates
of problem gambling are now at 0.2 per cent of the population, down from 0.4
per cent the year previous. This well-established problem
gambling rate survey, which is conducted quarterly, has
been a consistent measure of problem gambling rates since 2013.
This follows a PwC study commissioned by the
Betting and Gaming Council showing Black Market gambling has
more than doubled in just two years, from 220,000 users to 460,000 and the
amount staked there is now in the billions of pounds, putting at risk the
safety of consumers.
Threats to personal freedom
and Government interference in consumer spending choices were
key causes for concern for Red Wall voters when
discussing new measures being considered as part of
a review of the Gambling Act 2005.
One participant, a factory worker in
Doncaster, said: “The Government shouldn’t be sticking their noses in.
They say things like you should have two pints a day or whatever on alcohol.
That’s fine. But any more than that and trying to step in on ultimately people
spending their money. I should be allowed to do what I please with my money.”
Fears were expressed that strict blanket
affordability checks would simply drive punters to the illegal black market for
betting. One voter in Blackpool commented: “The issue is that you’re
going to push people who don’t even have a problem onto
these (illegal) websites. Then they’re betting on sites that don’t
have the option to do limits or time outs or whatever, and you’re probably
going to create a whole new wave of problem gamblers totally unnecessarily.”
One voter in Wakefield, soon to be contested in a
by-election, said: “Where companies know and can see someone is
developing a problem then obviously that should be the focus. But it shouldn’t
mean we all have to get regulated, (football) clubs get told who they can
sponsor with and we get told what we should spend money on. That’s
ridiculous and too far to solve what is essentially a small problem really.”
The Government is expected to lay out their plans for
a review of current regulations in a White Paper set to be
published this summer.
Anti-gambling campaigners have demanded a raft
of ‘draconian’ changes for punters including a complete ban
on all advertising and sports sponsorship, bans on offers and promotions like
‘free bets’, intrusive affordability checks - as low as £100 a month - on
those who like a punt on sports like football, darts and snooker, plus stake
limits for all customers who are online gambling, even if they are showing no
signs of risk.
When asked about so-called affordability checks, which
would compel punters to provide bank statements to prove they could afford
a bet, a voter in Wolverhampton asked: “Who’s idea is this -
is it the Conservatives? I’m shocked to be honest, it sounds like
something from a big brother style country. We can’t seriously be doing this
sort of stuff in a free country. What are we going to have left?”.
Voters recognised that betting companies
should step in and stop potential problem play. But ordinary punters
should not be a victim of a blanket approach, they said.
Another voter in Blackpool, fearing a ‘nanny state’
commented: “All this stuff they’re doing on fatty foods or supermarket
deals is just absurd. Then you add in all this stuff about gambling. It’s
making a mockery of people and their ability to just be grown-ups. We
don’t need telling how to live our lives – it’s completely too far for
A voter in Wakefield echoed the desire to support personal
freedom who said “I know what I want
to spend and I know what I can afford – I’m not daft. I know what I’ll put on.
There might be days like a big horse race or something and I’ll do extra but
I’ve usually saved up for that.”
female voter from Wolverhampton highlighted the positive impact that the
industry has locally saying “We’ve got a lovely racecourse and a couple of
decent casinos - people go for a good time and it brings people here. It’s
important for the town.”
Despite the concerns, there was a broader level of
support for checks on punters displaying signs of
The BGC supports enhanced spending checks for online
gambling but think these need to be non-instructive and carefully targeted at
vulnerable customers and those at risk. We understand the concerns around
stakes limits on slots and are open to a proportional and tiered system which
seeks to identify and reduce harms. Last year we also called for an ombudsman
to strengthen consumer redress. And we are committed to greater funding for
research, education and treatment of problem gamblers.
Commenting on the findings, Betting and Gaming
Council CEO Michael Dugher said: “At the BGC we support the
Government’s Review of Gambling as an important opportunity to further raise
standards, building on the changes introduced in recent times and the welcome
reductions in problem gambling rates. But ministers need to act in a way that
is carefully targeted at problem gamblers and those at risk, not the
overwhelming majority of the 22.5 million Brits who enjoy having a bet
“This latest polling and focus groups in key battleground
constituencies shows how outraged punters will be if the Government
listens to anti-gambling prohibitionists who want to interfere in people’s
privacy and freedom of choice, by demanding personal documentation before you
can have a bet, and by banning things and generally spoiling their enjoyment
just because some politicians look down their noses at people who like a bet.
“People think politicians live on a different planet as it
is. Telling them what they can and cannot do with their own time and their own
money isn’t going to help fix that perception.
“Ministers should also stop being so complacent about the
dangers of the unsafe, unregulated black market online. It’s real and it’s
growing, and it is targeting vulnerable people and problem gamblers. This is not an argument against change. It’s an argument for
getting changes right. Ministers need to be careful and smart - and they need
to wary about overreaching themselves and interfering unnecessarily in people’s
research featured seven focus groups in Wolverhampton, Stoke, Blackpool,
Doncaster, Durham, Leigh and Wakefield, was carried out in April 2022 and comes
ahead of the government’s publication of the Government’s White Paper on
gambling, expected in the coming weeks.