The Gambling Review is the perfect opportunity to promote safer gambling while allowing the casino sector to thrive
I have to admit that my first thought when the Government launched the Gambling Review was ‘Well, it’s about time.”
For casinos, it’s a great opportunity to finally modernise the whole sector, something that was fudged at the time of the 2005 Gambling Act and is now long-overdue.
And at the same time, the Review will rightly focus on how to tackle problem gambling, something which our entire industry wants to see. While the rate of problem gambling is, according to the Government’s own figures, around 0.5 per cent at the moment and has remained steady for the last 20 years, one problem gambler is one too many.
It is an issue that needs resolved, and casinos are ready and willing to continue playing our part in addressing it. But in order to do so, we need to firstly survive the Covid-19 pandemic, and then have the regulatory conditions which allow us to thrive. Quite simply, too many of our customers currently have their experience constrained by legislation which is now obsolete.
As things stand at the moment, casinos which opened before 2005 are regulated differently than those which came afterwards. As far back as 2012, the Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee said there was “no logical reason for maintaining different regulatory regimes and believe that 1968 Act Casinos should be given the same freedoms as new ones”.
So I’m heartened that, when launching the Review, the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport said they agree with the House of Lords Committee which earlier this year said the Government should “apply the same regulations to all casinos, regardless of when they opened”.
Incidentally, the same committee also said they were “impressed with the mechanisms in place” at a major London casino to ensure that gambling is undertaken in a safe environment and that those showing possible signs of problem gambling are monitored.
At a stroke, modernising the current regulatory regime would enable every casino to provide a range of products that better meet the needs of today’s consumer, providing a huge boost to the sector and the 14,000 men and women we employ. That in turn will generate more tax revenues for the Government as it tries to repair the economic damage caused by the pandemic.
Looking further ahead, enabling every casino to operate on a level playing field will increase confidence and encourage greater investment in the sector, allowing our world class venues to improve even further, generate more job opportunities and attract more tourists from overseas. If we get the Review right, it really could usher in a new golden age for the UK’s casinos.
Many of our industry’s critics wrongly believe that the Gambling Review is something for us to be afraid of. But as Betting and Gaming Council chief executive Michael Dugher made clear on the day it was launched with a 16-week call for evidence, we want the Review to be as wide-ranging as possible. Nothing should be off the table.
I think it boils down to this. Everyone in the industry wants to strike the right balance between protecting the vulnerable and not spoiling the enjoyment of the vast majority of our customers who enjoy a bet without reporting any harm.
For casinos, the Gambling Review is a perfect opportunity to achieve two long-cherished goals – to finally modernise our sector while further tackling problem gambling. It is an opportunity we should grasp with both hands.
Richard Noble is chief executive at Aspers Group