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UK’s Watered Down Gambling Review Angers Opposition


As Britain prepares to reform gambling, lawmakers remain inconclusive about what the new rules should be. Amid pressure from the industry, the Department for Culture, Media and Sport considers watering down certain measures.

Dugher Said Lawmakers Should Listen to Both Sides

The gambling reforms largely seek to inhibit problem gambling and mitigate the damage caused by it. Some have proposed to ban professional soccer teams from having gambling sponsors. Others argue that it is crucial to impose a tax on operators and use the proceeds to fund safer gambling initiatives.

According to GambleAware, an independent charity, taxing operators 1% of their earnings would change a lot. To be precise, the charity’s estimates show that this tax can raise as much as $176 million to fund gambling research.

However, it seems that lawmakers will instead make such contributions optional instead of mandatory. In light of this fact, some have accused the Betting and Gaming Council of lobbying with the gambling juggernauts.

Michael Dugher, the Council’s chief executive, slammed these claims and said that some opponents of gambling tend to be extreme.

A small but noisy anti-gambling lobby are demanding draconian restrictions for an activity they don’t approve of.

Michael Dugher, CEO, Betting and Gaming Council

Dugher emphasized that it is the government’s job to hear both the industry representatives and anti-gambling campaigners. Additionally, an industry that pays $5.7 billion in taxes a year shouldn’t be dismissed, he said.

Smith and Harris Will “Go to War” if the Review Fails to Make Gambling Safer

Although some support lighter measures, others have blasted the idea of watering down the white paper. Iain Duncan Smith, former leader of the Conservatives, said that he will “declare war on the government” if lawmakers give in to pressure from gambling firms.

Smith is against the removal of the mandatory levy from the white paper and argues that the ban on jersey sponsorships in soccer should be left in as well. He pointed out that there is enough evidence of the damage caused by problem gambling, so he will not compromise.

Carolyn Harris, Labour MP and chairwoman of the All-Parliamentary Group on gambling harms, was just as disappointed. According to her, the lawmakers forwent a chance to change gambling for the better and protect those at risk. Harris confirmed Smith’s words that there is enough support to “go to war” with the government.

The gambling white paper is expected to be published in the next few weeks. Meanwhile, ministers continue to evaluate the positives and negatives of changing certain rules. At the same time, the review caused big gambling companies to increase their lobbying efforts.  

According to official figures from September, there were 212,511 problem or at-risk gamblers in Britain. Moreover, about 409 people take their lives each year because of problems related to gambling. Because of this, Matt Zarb-Cousin of the Clean Up Gambling group said that making the levy optional would kill the purpose of the review.

However, introducing measures is not as simple as it may sound. Surveys show that many people may turn to the unregulated gambling market if the legal alternative becomes too restrictive. Around 56% of bettors in the United Kingdom firmly oppose deposit limits.

The fate of gambling in the UK remains uncertain.

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