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Is a Review of the Gambling Act 2005 likely?

The Gambling Act 2005, which came into force on 1 September 2007, made significant changes to the legislation which governs betting and gaming in the UK.  It is easy to forget that were it not for a last minute deal relating to certain parts of that legislation,  Tessa Jowell would not have been able to get the proposed changes through Parliament. There is no doubt that the changes introduced by the Gambling Act 2005 have had a major impact on gambling in the UK but even though it is only 15 years old it is now being argued that it is already out of date.

The view of most experts following the introduction of the Act in 2007 , was that most political parties would be likely to leave the legislation untouched, principally because there was no real political benefit to any of the parties trying to implement any changes.  It was felt that there would be criticism either from the anti-gambling bodies or from the gambling industry  no matter what changes were made.

The 2019 election appears to have changed all of that.  The Conservatives pledged in their manifesto to conduct a review of the 2005 Gambling Act and this followed similar commitments from the Liberal Democrat and the Labour Party. The Conservative Party promised to “make the UK the safest place in the world to be online”.  The general view appears to be that the Gambling Act 2005 is no longer fit for purpose and that the innovations brought in by the industry during the last 15 years  have far outstripped the ability of the Gambling Act 2005 to be an effective piece of legislation. There were particular concerns expressed with regard to problem gamblers not being protected by the Industry, credit card use, loot boxes and a general lack of social responsibility on behalf of the industry.

There have already been some minor changes introduced as credit card gambling is not permitted from the 14th April 2020 other than by non-remote lottery players and the Gambling Commission are undergoing further consultations as this article is being published. Concerns over gambling addiction and the lack of protection for gambling addicts, coupled with an increasing concern about “affordability of gambling” has already been well documented in the press during the last two years.

The Gambling Commission itself has significantly increased the amount of regulatory inspections it carries out and the amount of regulatory cases which are being brought against operators, principally for not complying with anti-money laundering legislation or social responsibility guidelines.  You only have to look at the Gambling Commission website to see the extent of the recent cases and the financial penalties which have been imposed.  Whilst on the one hand the industry argues that AML and SR policies and procedures are constantly evolving to meet the needs of society and the challenges set by the Gambling Commission, it does appear that the Gambling Commission is wholly dissatisfied with the AML and SR policies and procedures operated by the industry in general.

It seems to me that we are quite clearly at the stage now where there is the political will to make changes to the legislation, and that whilst it might not be the most pressing piece of legislation that the Government deals with in 2020 and whilst we may not see the widespread changes that many would like to see, it is clear that there will be a thorough review and changes to the Gambling Act 2005 sometime in the near future.

Those changes will include:

  • A potential ban of certain advertising by gambling companies and new restrictions placed on advertising.  Whether this extends to football clubs and advertising at football grounds is a debateable point.  The Premier League has already stated that it will oppose any blanket ban on gambling advertising, either on shirts or at the grounds, and yet there is growing lobby of those who would like to see this.
  • Increased social responsibility and affordability guidelines and regulations. This may change the overall principle from:

(1) “Does this customer have a gambling problem in any form / are we okay to allow this customer to gamble”; to

(2) “Does this customer have a gambling addition, are we okay to allow this customer to play, can this customer afford to play, how will the customer spend impact on the customer’s finances and how will this impact on other family members etc.”

  • AML and KYC checks will be tightened. The extent of due diligence information which casinos and online operators in particular need to have on those customer who play to a certain limit is already well detailed, but it is likely to see this source of information (enhanced due diligence) extended further.
  • Gambling to be seen as a public health issue, which brings into question, the role of any public health body during the course of any consultation/review.
  • A potential levy from problem gambling funding with gambling addiction being treated in the same way as drug and alcohol addiction.
  • An increase in regulations governing on line gambling
  • Source of funding and source of wealth and the information required in respect of both of these will also be extended.

All of the above is on the back of increased scrutiny by the Gambling Commission, the limit on fixed odd betting terminals being reduced to £2 and the credit card ban on all gambling with the exception of non-remote lotteries.

The majority of national operators have already been through the process of a regulatory review and in some cases, on more one occasion and in many cases, leading to significant financial penalty.  It has just been reported at the start of the February that the Commission has handed out large fines to seven bookmakers for allowing under 18s to place bets on a course and a further reviews with other operators are likely in 2020.

All of the above is of course dependent on the Government have sufficient time in Parliament to implement new legislation.  Gambling Commission guidelines and regulations can be changed without primary legislation so there will be a tightening of controls over gambling operators, irrespective of any decision to change primary legislation and it is absolutely essential that operators keep up to date with any changes to these guidelines and regulations during what will be a challenging time for operators.

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Gambling Commission partner with Twitter to issue Guidance on how to regulate content

The Gambling Commission has partnered with Twitter to create guidance aimed at supporting users who want to limit the amount of gambling-related content they see on the social media platform. The guidance explains the different ways in which Twitter’s safety tools and settings can be adjusted within an individual account, to help mitigate the risk of exposure to gambling-related messaging and advertisements. This year the Gambling Commission is also looking to produce similar guidance for users of other social media platforms. Twitter is the first to work with the Gambling Commission on this initiative.

In the guidance you are shown how you can control on various levels:

  • Manage ‘interests’ within a profile; interests are comprised of a list of keywords, associated to an individual’s Twitter activity.
  • Turn off notifications; this prevents the user from receiving notifications from certain types of accounts they’d like to avoid (such as a sports account).
  • Use the mute feature; this enables a user to have greater control over what they can and can’t see on Twitter by ensuring certain words, accounts and conversations are no longer visible.

In October 2019 the Commission’s chief executive Neil McArthur raised his concerns to the gambling industry around the exposure of gambling adverts to children, young people and vulnerable adults. He has encouraged gambling businesses to embrace advertising technology and be more socially responsible.

“This level of exposure is a concern and I have challenged the industry to quickly accelerate opportunities to reduce the amount of advertising seen by young people, children and vulnerable adults across all digital platforms. Whilst we work on a plan which sets out new standards for how the industry will embrace advertising technology, I hope that this guidance will play a role in helping consumers to limit the gambling-related content they see on Twitter.”

Katy Minshall, Head of UK Public Policy at Twitter, said: “Improving the health of the public conversation is our overall mission as is ensuring those on the service feel safe and supported. With that in mind, we’re continuing to enforce our policies, specifically around prohibited and restricted ad content as well as assessing the eligibility of ads on our service – these policies apply to all advertisers and advertisements on Twitter.”

This is another example of how the Commission is upping the ante with regards to advertisements/publishing of gambling specific offers and exposure to gambling on social media.

Click on the following link to download the guidance document  https://www.gamblingcommission.gov.uk/PDF/Twitter-consumer-guide.pdf

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Julian Skeens joins Woods Whur as a consultant

We have long admired Julian and been great friends on the circuit, so we were delighted that he wanted to join us and further assist our expansion in the London and South. After Luke Elford, who Julian worked with previously, joined us last year this further strengthens our London focus.

Julian has over 30 years’ experience in delivering licensing successes across the UK and advises a broad range of prestigious clients, including pubs, restaurants, nightclubs, galleries, theatres, and hotels.
For the past 32 years Julian has been consistently recognised by his peers as an expert in the field of licensing in Chambers and Partners UK and Legal 500 UK. He is known by his competitors as a “creative thinker” and a “formidable opponent” he leaves no stone unturned in his relentless pursuit of his clients’ interests.

“I am delighted to be joining Woods Whur. I believe that their commercially focused and pragmatic advice fits closely with my own personal approach and allows me the opportunity to provide the competitive advantages I like to offer clients. Paddy and Andy are at the top of the tree right now so it is exciting to be involved with their practice. It is also particularly pleasing for me to work with Luke again, he is already a great  lawyer, but also a personal friend. This gives us the right environment to further grow the firm’s enviable representation in the vibrant London market.”

“We are all pleased that Julian has joined us. Andy and I have known Julian for the whole of our professional careers and respected his advocacy skills, client list and desire to take on even the most difficult of cases. Andy and I were already undertaking some fabulous work in the South and London in particular, and Julian joining us to link in with Luke really sets the agenda for exciting growth.”

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Stress in the workplace – Criteria released for work-related stress investigations

At the regulatory seminar back in September (where does the time go!) we discussed stress in the workplace and the potential impacts and difficulties companies faced in monitoring a non-tangible health and safety issue.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) have now released guidance on how it, as a regulator, investigates stress where there is evidence of a wider organisational failing but does not investigate concerns relating to individual cases of bullying or harassment.

The guidance issued indicates that organisations are taking mental wellbeing seriously and it is reassuring that they recognise mental wellbeing as an important factor in employee’s health in accordance with the law and their duties as an employer

Stress is not reportable under RIDDOR as a notifiable incident/concern. Only where key wider failings are identified is when stress in the workplace becomes relevant for the HSE to perhaps investigate, intervene, and take action.

This comes at a time where a recent survey has indicated that 6 in 10 construction workers suffer work-related mental ill health. The recent health and safety statistics also show a breakdown of work related stress, depression, anxiety figures which explain why the HSE are releasing further guidance on the topic for employers.

In any event, having a system in place which identifies how employees may experience stress, either through their employment or otherwise, whilst in the workplace is important for organisations to deal with not only issues with bullying and harassment for equality reasons, but the wider health and safety remit.

We have now seen the introduction of mental health first aiders within many different sectors to provide a point of contact not only for physical health, but also for mental health. This is one of many introductions that companies may wish to consider.

The issue here is how to actually quantify the problem and then deal with it. It is certainly difficult to devise a system that works for all employees therefore experience has shown behand a general policy for addressing stress – there must be a flexible approach by HR, line managers etc. to implement the policy in specific ways to the individual employee. That individual approach needs to be documented and that individual ‘plans’ need to be considered also as a whole to identify trends and particular organisation wide issues – so they can be addressed.

This approach is useful not only not only in the area or health and safety compliance, but also provides good evidence if you face a personal injury claim from employees for stress!

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Gambling Commission announces that all online operators to use GAMSTOP incentive

This will allow self-exclusion to be monitored by operators much more effectively and ensure that its policies reflect this change.

Gamstop has been developed for the online sector and will make it simpler for not only operators but also consumers. A lot of operators already use Gamstop but this change by the Gambling Commission makes it compulsory for all operators to use the same system to ensure consistency throughout with the objective of protecting consumers against harm associated with gambling.

Neil McCarthur, Gambling Commission Chief Executive, says: “Operators must do everything they can to minimise the risk of gambling related harm. That is why we expect the industry to create safe products, know their customers, understand what they can afford to gamble with and identify when they are experiencing harm and step in.”

This is a clear message from the Gambling Commission regarding socially responsible expectations in particular relating to harm caused by gambling.

If you would like to discuss these changes with the team please do not hesitate to contact Andy Woods or Sarah Frow on sfrow@woodswhur.co.uk or 0113 234 3055.

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Credit Cards banned by the Gambling Commission for use with gambling

We have previously written about the various Gambling Commission consultations and encourage operators to often look to see the current consultations for a number of reasons, mainly to determine whether a response to the consultation may be beneficial for them and to assist the Gambling Commission.

Between August and November 2019, there was an open consultation looking into the use of credit cards and the harm it caused to those who gamble. Following this consultation, the Gambling Commission have now announced that they are to ban the use of credit cards for all gambling operators aside from non-remote lotteries.

The ban applies to all online and offline gambling products with the exception of non-remote lotteries. The intention behind not banning credit cards for non-remote lotteries are as a result of them often forming part of a wider retail purchase i.e. with food and drinks therefore those operators that offer both remote and non-remote lotteries will need to review how this is provided.

Although the ban is not altogether a surprise following the consultation, there will be operators that are understandably concerned with how to ensure smooth transition with these changes by April 14 2020. It has widely been reported already that some large online betting operators have seen a fall in its share price as a result of this so change management is key here.

Neil McArthur, Gambling Commission chief executive, said: “We realise this change will inconvenience those consumers who use credit cards responsibly but we are satisfied that reducing the risk of harm to other consumers means that action must be taken.”

This is a huge change to the industry and it has been indicated that this is part of a wider effort concerning the harm associated with gambling and efforts are being made to tackle this. We anticipate similar consultations and debates surrounding the harm caused by gambling and what can be done by regulators to tackle this.

The Culture Minister, Helen Whately, said: “There is clear evidence of harm from consumers betting with money they do not have, so it is absolutely right that we act decisively to protect them.” This continues down the theme of being socially responsible and the harm caused by gambling.

If you would like to discuss this with one of the team please do not hesitate to contact Andy or Sarah on sfrow@woodswhur.co.uk or 0113 234 3055.

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Gambling Commission Consultations – Society Lotteries Reform

The long awaited and much anticipated changes to society lotteries appear to finally be making some movement. On 19 December 2019, the Gambling Commission opened a consultation on society lottery reform, following the Government announcement in July 2019 confirming that it intends to amend Section 99(3) of the Gambling Act 2005.

The intended amendments are to raise the current lottery proceeds limits, meaning that a maximum individual prize will raise from £400,000 to £500,000.

In addition, the annual aggregate proceeds limit will rise from £10 million to £50 million once the order has been implemented.

The order will make changes to the limits in legislation however, these changes also need to be reflected by the Gambling Commission in order that they are changed on the Licensing Condition and Codes of Practice (LCCP). For the changes that are to be made to the LCCP, the Gambling Commission have to consult on any proposed changes and this is what they are now doing in anticipation of the change to the law.

The current consultation closes on 12 March 2020 and all lottery operators and those in the industry are encouraged to provide submissions on this consultation.

The lottery sector is a form of fund raising for good causes, and the increase in limits is a welcome changed to lottery operators in the wider fund raising projects.

We will certainly be keeping an eye on any further changes and will be on the lookout for the consultation response in or around March 2020.

If you would like to discuss any aspects of lottery law and/or compliance with the Gambling Act 2005, then please do not hesitate to get in touch with Sarah Frow or Andy Woods at Woods Whur.

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Out with the old and in with the new.

As we say goodbye to 2019 and look forward to 2020 we are in the midst of a move to our new offices in Leeds. From 2nd January 2020 we will have a new HQ in Leeds. After 8 years in Devonshire House we are moving to ST JAMES HOUSE, 28 PARK PLACE, LEEDS LS1 2SP. We are really pleased with our new offices which are spacious and modern, allowing for the continued growth we have seen in 2019. Amanda Usher became our first trainee Solicitor after working for us as a paralegal and Kirstan Lounsbach joined to further strengthen the Leeds based admin team. Luke Elford joined us in London from TLT to continue the development of our London presence as we moved our London offices to 42-46 Princelet Street, London, E1 5LP .

It has been an amazing year. Andy has had several trips abroad as our international gambling client base has grown significantly. We are seeing continued growth in this sector and I am hopeful I can make another exciting announcement in this area in the New Year. We have seen a hike in regulatory interaction in the Gambling Sector, with the Gambling Commission looking particularly closely at operators and their compliance with social responsibility, money laundering and proceeds of crime conditions. It has been very clear that the Commission is keen to act if they feel operators do not have first rate systems to ensure a transparent and safe gambling sector in the UK. We really do not see this slowing down and have written, and will continue to write, bulletins on this in 2020.

I have been doing much more work in the music sector, securing premises licences for Field Day festival, Drumsheds, Shindig festival on the back of successful applications for Printworks, Dock x and Exhibition in London. This is a really exciting area to be working in and it is always interesting to be involved in the SAG process around these major events. Again, we have some new and exciting developments in this area for 2020 and only see this area growing as we move forward.

As well as representing large multi-site operators, as a firm we have always represented some of the best independents in the country. 2019 has been a particularly strong year for our clients in this sector with a raft of new award winning openings around the country. It is still very exciting to be involved with these operators from site finding, proactive advice, delivering a new licence to celebrating with the client at opening events and seeing the premises flourish.

The Regulatory team has had some major successes this year in both defending operators when systems have gone wrong and let them down, as well as giving pro-active advice to operators to avoid the pitfalls which can be hugely impactful to businesses. The Regulatory team continue to be very active in the Taxi sector, which is a very active area of licensing and regulation. James and his team held a fantastic regulatory conference this year and we will be looking to hold a Gambling conference and other training events through 2020. Luke and I both spoke at the Institute of Licensing National Conference, and James spoke at the regional conference in York. We will continue to support and speak at IOL events.

We are looking forward to dealing with whatever 2020 throws at us. We have a new Government and movement on Brexit. It will be interesting to see what impact this has on the leisure sector, a bit of movement and more certainty will definitely help. With the amount that needs to be undertaken by central Government on these and big ticket issues we don’t foresee any major regulatory/legislator changes. That is not to say we wont see changes brought about by litigation through the courts creating interpretation of the legislation.

Everyone at Woods Whur wish you all a productive New Year; profits for the operators; safe environments for the regulators; exciting new developments and innovation. Back to the unpacking now though so we can settle into the new offices and hit the ground running for the new year.

Paddy Whur

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Changes to the Licence Conditions and Codes of Practice (LCCP)

The Gambling Commission are often consulting on a number of topics which concern the gambling sector and we always encourage our clients to regularly keep up to date with open consultations that may affect their operations and provide responses to any consultations where they can.

One of the big calls to evidence and consultations this year was that of the use of credit cards for gambling, and you may well have seen media coverage of this in the news too.

At the time of writing, there are no Gambling Commission consultations open however we await responses to the following closed consultations and calls to evidence:

  • Gambling with credit cards (closed on 06 November 2019)
  • Test House framework development consultation (closed 31 October 2019)
  • Gambling Commission calls for evidence on Category B gaming machines (closed 16 May 2019)

The Gambling Commission consultation for either banning or limiting the use of credit cards for gambling will have a wide impact on the entire gambling sector. Following the call for evidence the Gambling Commission have learnt that there are risks of harm associated with using them however it also confirmed that not all credit card gamblers are problem gamblers therefore they want to minimise the impact on any changes following the consultation.

The data indicates that credit cards are a more popular method of payment than overdrafts and loans. It is thought that those at risk of harm from using credit cards may be harmed by using overdrafts and loans to gamble with similar financial consequences. Over 20% of online gamblers are likely to be experiencing negative consequences from gambling, according to the call for evidence leading to negative consequences.

Risks associated are significant enough to cause harm therefore the Gambling Commission seek to either ban or restrict use of credit cards.

In respect of current confirmed upcoming LCCP changes, these include the 01 January 2020 when the gambling operators have to donate to a list of bodies provided by the Gambling Commission, rather than not being stipulated as was the case previously. Following the Gambling Commission consultation on credit cards, it is likely we will see further LCCP changes around April time 2020.

We will be continuously reporting on any changes to the LCCP and urge those in the gambling sector to keep up to date with developments.

If you want to know more about the LCCP changes and how you, as an operator, can ensure you keep compliant please do not hesitate to contact us.

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Gambling Commission Publish the Young People and Gambling Survey 2019.

The Gambling Commission have released their research study among 11-16 year olds in Great Britain. A full copy of the report can be found at the following link: https://www.gamblingcommission.gov.uk/PDF/Young-People-Gambling-Report-2019.pdf

This will take you to the Young People and Gambling Survey of 2019.

The report which was published earlier in October explores the gambling behaviours of young people aged between 11-16 years old in England, Scotland and Wales. It disseminates a survey that was conducted by Ipsos MORI on behalf of the Gambling Commission.

The headline findings of the report are as follows:-

  • 11% of 11-16 year olds say they spent their own money on gambling activities in the 7 days prior to taking part in the survey. This is down from 14% in the previous year.
  • 5% of 11-16 year olds say they have placed a private bet for money (e.g. with friends) in the past 7 days, with a further 3% playing cards for money in the past 7 days.
  • 4% of 11-16 year olds report playing on fruit or slot machines in the past 7 days.
  • 3% of 11-16 year olds say they have played National Lottery Scratch Cards and 2% say they have played the Lotto draw in the past 7 days.
  • 69% of 11-16 year olds say they have seen or heard gambling adverts or sponsorship with 83% of those saying that it had not prompted them to gamble.
  • 7% of 11-16 year olds are classified as problem gamblers, 2.7% are classified as at risk. In 2018 those figures were 1.7% and 2.2%.

The Gambling Commission do not feel that the 2019 results represent a significant increase since the previous report.

Tim Miller, executive director of the Gambling Commission said:

“This report demonstrates that children and young people’s interaction with gambling or gambling behaviours comes from 3 sources – gambling that they are legally allowed to participate in, gambling on age restricted products and gambling style games. Any child or young person that experiences harm from these areas is a concern to us and we are absolutely committed to doing everything we can to protect them from gambling harms.

Most of the gambling covered by this report takes place in ways which the law permits, but we must keep working to prevent children and young people from having access to age restricted products. Where operators have failed to protect children and young people, we have and will continue to take firm action. This year alone, we have tightened rules and requirements around age verification to prevent children and young people from accessing age restricted products, put free to play games behind pay walls and clamped down on irresponsible products.”

Earlier this month, the Gambling Commission’s chief executive, Neil McArthur, set out clear expectations for the gambling industry about how he wants operators to use data to avoid targeting advertising at young and vulnerable people.

Through the work of the national strategy to reduce gambling harms, the Gambling Commission says that it is developing a range of education and prevention programs to put in place to protect children and young people. This includes partnerships with Gamble Aware and Parent Zone, who offer support for parents and guardians to help them deal with issues around playing gambling style games and gambling.

The report and other initiatives show that the Gambling Commission continue to take the wellbeing of children as a premium in relation to gambling activities. This was also seen last year when the Gambling Commission reported on the back of test purchasing of pubs that they found 88% of pubs in England failed to prevent children accessing 18+ gaming machines.

This is clearly a key area for the Gambling Commission who continue to work to ensure children are not exposed to illegal gambling.