The Government reviews the 2005 Gambling Act

In December 2020, the government announced its long-anticipated review of the 2005 Gambling Act. The three-month consultation concluded on 31 March 2021. Details of the government’s response will be posted here in due course.

The review covers all aspects of gambling in the UK.  In his Ministerial Forward to the consultation, Nigel Huddleston (Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Sport, Heritage and Tourism) highlights the review’s objective to make sure the Act is ‘fit for the digital age’.  The government continues to maintain that there needs to be ‘an appropriate balance between consumer freedoms and choice… and prevention of harm to vulnerable groups and wider communities.’

In our response, QAAD reiterated our position, provided in written evidence to the Culture, Media and Sport Committee in 2011:

‘The moral and practical question for legislators – which was not squarely faced when the Gambling Act was passed – is whether profit for the industry, and an increase in gambling opportunities for the consumer are worth [these] human costs.’

We join the House of Lords’ Peers for Gambling Reform group, the Gambling Related Harm All Party Parliamentary Group, and the Royal Society for Public Health, amongst many others, in a call for any future legislation to be based firmly on a public health approach, with robust restrictions (and a potential complete ban longer-term) on gambling advertising, and the introduction of a mandatory levy to provide adequate and sustainable funding for treatment, public health education and research.

Click here to read QAAD’s response to the Gambling Act review consultation

QAAD was also a signatory of a press statement issued by Faith Action on Gambling Harm, the ecumenical group of churches and faith based groups concerned with gambling to which QAAD belongs. Click here to read the statement in full.

The Gambling Commission bans gambling with credit cards

On 14th January 2020, the Commission announced that gambling with credit cards would be banned for all land-based and online gambling from 14th April.  This follows its call for evidence in May 2019 (see below), and subsequent consultation later the same year.  The announcement was widely welcomed by campaigners, researchers, those working with gamblers and their families and many politicians.  The exception to the ban is the face to face purchase of lottery tickets, including the National Lottery, when shopping for a food and other items.

The Government also announced that all UK online gambling operators must participate in the GAMSTOP self-exclusion scheme and offer it to their customers from 31st March 2020.

National Gambling Strategies

A new National Strategy to Reduce Gambling Harms (2019-2022) was launched by the Gambling Commission in April 2019.  Its specific focus is on the identification and addressing of gambling related harm. The Responsible Gambling Strategy Board (RGSB) was renamed the Advisory Board for Safer Gambling (ABSG).

Further details and updates on the Strategy’s progress updates can be found at:

The National Responsible Gambling Strategy (2016 – 19) concluded at the end of March 2019.  In its final progress report, the Responsible Gambling Strategy Board (RGSB) confirmed that, whilst some progress had been made towards its objectives, this had been limited and ‘disappointing’.

QAAD produced a paper summarising our views on the previous Strategy’s outcomes, and responded to the Gambling Commission’s consultation for the new Strategy.  Both documents can be read, following the links below. If you would prefer a printed copy, please contact our Director.

A Framework for Measuring Gambling Harms among Children and Young People

This framework was launched by the Gambling Commission in April 2019. It aims to develop current understanding of how gambling harms impact on the health, relationships and finances of young people. An adult framework was published in 2018 and both will be used to inform the national Strategy (see above).  Director, Helen Rhodes, said ‘Childhood and adolescence is a key stage of development and any harms experienced at this stage in life can be detrimental to the future development, confidence and potential of young people.’

Fixed Odds Betting Terminals (FOBTs)

The maximum FOBT stake was reduced from £100 to £2 on 1st April 2019, following the government’s decision in May 2018.  This was warmly welcomed by QAAD and our ecumenical colleagues who have long campaigned for this reform.  It has been widely acknowledged that this measure alone will not resolve problem and harmful gambling.  There is evidence that some providers are actively marketing alternative products and anticipate a growth in online business – already around 50% of the market.

QAAD’s action on gambling

QAAD became particularly focused on the issue when the Gambling Act of 2005 liberalised law and regulation.  We were one of the faith-based groups that gave evidence to the Parliamentary Select Committee which considered the Act.

Since that time, we have continued to be involved as stakeholders in policy discussions, working collaboratively with other faith group representatives to argue for measures that would reduce the risks and harms of problem gambling.  We have sat on committees convened by the Gambling Commission (the gambling regulator); made representations to elected representatives; and given oral evidence to Select Committees in 2011 and 2013.

Over the years, QAAD has contributed numerous submissions to the Department of Digital, Culture Media and Sport (DCMS), the Gambling Commission, and other bodies concerned with gambling policy.  We include the most recent below.  For further details of submissions relating to particular topics, or to request a hard copy, please contact Alison Mather.

What is QAAD’s perspective on gambling issues as Quakers?

QAAD approaches gambling in the same way as alcohol and drugs i.e. by looking at the evidence base and working from our values of care and inclusivity.

Why are we so concerned?

QAAD and many others argued against the de-regulatory effects of the 2005 Gambling Act, because there is evidence from other countries that when participation in gambling increases, the numbers of problem gamblers also tends to rise.

Fast, repetitive forms of gambling (such as slot machines and online gambling) are most strongly associated with higher levels of problem gambling – and this risk is increased when they are highly accessible.  We have argued for tighter controls on the forms of gambling that meet these criteria, and for detailed, targeted research into their effects.  We have expressed our concern that, too often, ‘the problem’ has been defined as being located within individuals, with insufficient focus given to specific products and environmental factors.

Specific Areas of Concern

Children and young people

We have strong concerns about the level of gambling advertising on TV, online, and via mobile phone apps, particularly at and during sporting events and therefore available to children and young people.

Another area of concern is children’s exposure to ‘virtual gambling’ for tokens or ‘loot chests’ during online gaming.  Whilst no money is exchanged, it has been suggested that this may be seen as ‘grooming’ children and young people to start engaging in gambling behaviour with a view to encouraging their participation in mainstream gambling as adults.

Fixed Odds Betting Terminals (FOBTs)

One of our strongest concerns as regards ‘terrestrial gambling’ has been FOBTs which are located in bookmakers.  Although a relatively small percentage (around 5%) of people use them, they are associated with a disproportionately high percentage of referrals to support agencies for problem gamblers.  This disparity is a clear indicator of risk and harm.

Betting shops tend to be most heavily clustered in poorer areas and research also indicates problem rates are highest amongst people with the lowest incomes.  At present, local councils have very limited powers to refuse licences on the grounds of density, even if they have several betting shops already and even if there is strong community feeling against them.

Wider concerns about problem gambling

When the Gambling Act was passed in 2005, it was recognised that there was the potential for an increase in problem gambling, and that resources would be needed to research and address this.

An arrangement was made whereby the gambling industry funds research, education and treatment (RET) for problem gambling on a voluntary basis through a body called GambleAware.  While some parts of the industry have responded and donate, this has been patchy and the sums concerned are small in relation to profits.  For example, in 2016-17 the ‘Gross Gaming Yield’ of the industry as a whole was £13.8bn, whilst the industry’s contributions to GambleAware were £8m.

We think that the disbursal of the funds raised should be conducted in a way that is entirely independent of the industry, in order to avoid conflicts of interest.

We propose:

  • Increased involvement by the Department of Health with a view to ensuring that problem gambling is placed functionally within a public health framework.
  • Public health to be used as a criterion for licensing authorities, to ensure that proliferation cannot occur without local population needs and vulnerabilities being taken into account.
  • A substantial increased in funding for treatment/advice services, including for under-age problem gamblers.
  • That measures be taken to protect children from advertising via the internet.
  • Evidence-based anticipation of, and proactive research into, the problems arising from riskier forms of gambling, and the adoption of preventative measures to address them.
  • In this context, internet gambling needs particular focus.
  • That there should be no gambling advertising before the 9pm watershed, including sports events.
  • A regular national Prevalence Study that is directly comparable with those of 1999, 2004 and 2010, to ensure that trends are captured and fully analysed.
  • A statutory levy to fund research, education and treatment, and structures to ensure that funds are completely independently managed.