Insights DCMS Select Committee issues its recommendations for gambling reform


In December 2022, the Department of Digital, Culture, Media & Sport’s Select Committee announced its intention to “examine the Government’s approach to the regulation of gambling” and stated it would be “investigating the progress the Government has made in addressing the issues raised by Parliament, how to ensure regulation can keep up with innovations in online gambling and the links between gambling and broadcasting and sport”.

The Select Committee invited written responses to a relatively short number of broad questions, being:

  1. What is the scale of gambling-related harm in the UK?
  2. What should the key priorities be in the gambling White Paper?
  3. How broadly should the term, ‘gambling’, be drawn?
  4. Is it possible for a regulator to stay abreast of innovation in the online sphere?
  5. What additional problems arise when online gambling companies are based outside of UK jurisdiction?

As well as receiving almost 150 written responses, the Committee held a series of public hearings during the Summer of 2022, with witnesses including academics, NHS clinicians, gambling charities, industry trade bodies, the Gambling Commission and the Government’s Minister for Gambling.

The Committee acknowledges that when it launched the inquiry in December 2022, “there was considerable uncertainty about the status of the Gambling White Paper”. With the White Paper’s policy recommendations now the subject to a raft of consultations, the Committee’s intentions do appear have somewhat superseded by subsequent events. Yet, the Committee is influential in itself and, as such, its recommendations should be digested as they may yet shape further regulatory evolution in this space.

The notable key recommendations/demands are:

  • The Government must set out a detailed timetable for the delivery of the White Paper’s proposals, including when relevant primary legislation will be introduced to Parliament.
  • Accepting it is important “to monitor the size of the black market in response to greater regulation”, the Committee considers it “more pertinent that, right now, a number of easily-accessible illegal sites are targeting some of those who have self-excluded from gambling”. It calls on the Government to ensure legislation establishing powers for the Gambling Commission to act against illegal operators is brought forward in this Parliamentary session.
  • The Committee states “The debate about the threat posed by the black market partly stems from a lack of understanding about its size. The Gambling Commission must continue to work to improve its knowledge of the black market and its ability to monitor the number of British consumers gambling with illegal operators. The Commission should set out its plans to do so in response to this report.”
  • Regarding financial risk checks, the Government “must ensure they are minimally intrusive, and that customers’ financial data are properly protected. The Government and the Gambling Commission must also establish what level of “friction” involved in these checks is acceptable for most online gambling customers”. Its notable this requires an understanding of what customers will tolerate – an important consideration for the Commission during its consultation processes.
  • The Commission must set out progress in the work to develop a single customer view mechanism;
  • The Government should consider what point-of-sale information should be provided to customers about the risk of specific products and their design features.
  • The Committee “recommends that stake limits for online slots should match those for electronic gaming machines in land-based venues and not exceed £5”;
  • Operators should be compelled to proactively encourage customers to set online deposit limits. Where potential harm of financial vulnerability is indicated, online deposit limits should be mandatory.
  • The Government should review the case for banning children’s access to social casino games.
  • The Committee states there is “an urgent need to better understand the effects of gambling advertising on the risk of harm”. One notable sentence, that could have a significant impact on advertising is that “the evidence for a link between advertising and gambling harm currently appears much stronger than evidence indicating there is a risk of displacement to the black market if gambling advertising were restricted”.
  • The Committee implores the Government to “work with the Premier League and the governing bodies of other sports to ensure that the gambling sponsorship code of conduct contains provisions reducing the volume of gambling adverts in stadia”.
  • The Government “should set out how it will minimise disruption to services currently funded under the voluntary [RET] system during the transition to the statutory levy”. Moreover, the Government “must ensure that levy funds are clearly ringfenced for the purposes of understanding, preventing, and treating gambling harm. It must also use the levy to improve the integration of gambling treatment services across the NHS and third sector”.
  • The Committee welcomes “the Government’s suicide prevention strategy for England” and requires “a clear action plan on what it and the Gambling Commission will do to continue to develop understanding of the relationship between gambling and suicide.”
  • The Committee welcomes the establishment of a gambling ombudsman and recommends “that the scope of the gambling ombudsman should include all disputes between gambling operators and their customers, replacing the existing gambling ADR providers”.

There is work for the Commission to do here to respond to some of the recommendations, although it is likely to consider many are already in progress or slated for future consultation already.

The Committee’s report and recommendations can be accessed here.