House of Lords Select Committee on the Social and Economic Impact of the Gambling Industry says that more needs to be done to prevent gambling-related harm

The Committee has published a Report, “Gambling Harm – Time for Action”, which finds that the liberalisation of gambling by the Gambling Act 2005, the universal adoption of smart phones, and the exploitation of soft-touch regulation by gambling operators has created a perfect storm of addictive 24/7 gambling.

The Committee says that it “expects the Government and the regulator to make changes now”. The Committee notes that many of the report’s recommendations do not need legislation, and all of them are urgent if consumers are to be protected and lives saved.

The Report sets out a range of recommendations across different areas to reduce gambling-related harm:

  • the gambling industry offers a variety of products to consumers, including some that can be highly addictive. The Gambling Commission should create a system for testing all new games against a series of harm indicators, including their addictiveness and whether they will appeal to children. A game which scores too highly on the harm indicators must not be approved;
  • the speed of play and spin should be equalised, so that no game can be played quicker online than in a casino, bookmaker or bingo hall;
  • the Gambling Commission must explain the minimum steps that operators should take when considering customer affordability, and make clear that it is for the operator to take the steps that will enable them to identify customers who are betting more than they can afford;
  • the creation of a statutory independent Gambling Ombudsman Service, modelled on the Financial Ombudsman Service, to settle disputes between gambling operators and gamblers;
  • the Government must act immediately to bring loot boxes within the remit of gambling legislation and regulation;
  • gambling operators should no longer be allowed to advertise on the shirts of sports teams or any other visible part of their kit. There should also be no gambling advertising in or near any sports grounds or sports venues; and
  • problem gambling is a common mental health disorder, and the NHS has the same duty to treat it as to treat any other disorder. Last year the NHS promised to open 15 new clinics. It should do this before 2023 and establish a comparable number within the following few years.

To read the Committee’s news release and for access to the Report, click here.