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House of Law call evidence on the Social and Economic Impact of the Gambling Industry

The deadline for submissions is now fast approaching, being 6 September 2019. The link below gives any interested party the opportunity to make their feelings known to the House of Lords Committee.

Some of the key questions of the nineteen contained in the call for evidence are as follows:

  • What changes, if any, are required to bring the Act up to date with new technology and the latest knowledge about how gambling harm is distributed
  • Is gambling well regulated, including the licensing regime for both on and offshore operations?
  • How successfully do the Gambling Commission, local authorities and others enforce licensing conditions including age verification?
  • What might be learnt from comparison with other regulators and jurisdictions?
  • Should gambling operators have a legal duty of care to their customers?
  • What are the social and economic costs of gambling? These might include costs associated with poor health and hospital in-patient services; the cost of benefit claims; welfare and employment costs; lost tax receipts; housing costs through statutory homelessness applications; and criminal justice costs.
  • What are the social and economic benefits of gambling? How can they be measured and assessed?
  • Is the money raised by the levy adequate to meet the current needs for research, education and treatment?
  • How effective is the voluntary levy?
  • Would a mandatory levy or other alternative arrangement be more productive and effective?
  • How should income raised by a levy be spent, and how should the outcome be monitored? What might be learned from international comparisons?
  • If, as the Responsible Gambling Strategy Board (RGSB) has suggested, there is limited evidence on which to base sound decisions about gambling by children and young people, what steps should be taken to rectify this?
  • Is there is enough being done to provide effective public education about gambling? If not, what more should be done?
  • What steps should be taken better to understand any links between suicide and gambling?
  • The RGSB has said that by not taking action, the limits of the exposure to young people to gambling advertising “we are in danger of inadvertently conducting an uncontrolled social experiment on today’s youth, the outcome of which is uncertain, but could be significant”. Do you agree? How should we make decision about the regulation of gambling advertising? What might be learned from international comparison?
  • How are new forms of technology, including social media, effecting children’s experience of gambling? How are these experiences effecting gambling behaviour now, and how might they effect behaviour in the future?
  • The restrictions on society lotteries were relaxed by the Gambling Act 2005 and there is concern that some of them are effectively being taken over by large commercial lotteries. Is this concern well founded? If so, what should be done?

As always, it will be interesting to see the responses to the call for evidence.

A similar exercise was carried out by the House of Lords in relation to the impact and of the Licensing Act 2003 for alcohol and entertainment premises. This ultimately proved to be frustrating for a significant number of people who reacted to the call to evidence. The select committee, in that case, made a significant number of recommendations, most, if not all of which, were ignored by government. I

It will be interesting to see the content of these responses, particularly as we have now seen William Hill announcing that they will close, close to 700 betting shops, with the potential loss of 4,500 jobs, due to the reduction in B2 gaming stake, which is staked to £2 which became effective in April of this year.

William Hill said at the time: “William Hill has entered into a consultation process with retail colleagues over plans to close around 700 licensed betting offices. This follows the Government’s decision to reduce the maximum stake on the two gaming products to £2 on 1 April 2019. Since then, the company has seen a significant fall in gaming machine revenues, in line with the guidance given when the Government’s decision was announced in May 2018.” We wait to see how other operators react to this drop in revenue and we could see similar numbers of units closed by the other larger operators.

Observers are waiting to see if perceived FOBT problem gamblers move to other areas of gambling and they become “problem gambling”. The industry will wait to see whether the government reassess the position at any stage in the future.

All in all, there are significant potential changes to the gambling landscape in the UK and we will of course, report on any subsequent changes.