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Cross party MP group calls for gambling ad ban

Written by: Emma Lunn
A report calls for the shake-up of gambling laws including an end to VIP schemes and a £2 online stake limit.

A group of MPs have gathered evidence on gambling-related harm and published proposals that could shape a government review of how the gambling industry is regulated.

The All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for Gambling Related Harm has previously campaigned successfully for a ban on using credit cards to place bets, and the curbing of fixed-odds betting terminals (FOBTs).

The report’s most eye-catching recommendation is a total ban on gambling advertising. The proposal is likely to face opposition from both commercial broadcasters and gambling firms.

There has been a significant rise in gambling advertising since the introduction of the 2005 Gambling Act, although the industry signed up to a voluntary restriction during daytime sports broadcasts last year.

The report also called for independent affordability checks to ensure that people do not gamble more than they can afford, and the introduction of a £2 cap on online casino stakes.

It criticised gambling operators for running algorithms where if an individual is spending significant sums, it can make the person a “VIP” or offer bonus bets, both of which are to the firm’s commercial advantage.

The group has set out more than 30 recommendations which would completely overhaul the 2005 Gambling Act.

The key recommendations are:

  • A ban on gambling adverts on TV and online
  • An end to VIP schemes and inducements to bet
  • A £2 stake limit on online slot machines
  • Affordability limits set and imposed by the Gambling Commission
  • Controls on gambling game design
  • A new ombudsman to resolve disputes
  • A review of stakes, deposit and prize limits online

The group said that while some immediate changes can be made through secondary legislation, the Gambling Act needs to be overhauled so it is fit for the digital age.

The group denied it was anti-gambling, and said it wanted to protect vulnerable people and children and prevent online gambling harm.

The Gambling Commission estimates there are 395,000 problem gamblers in the UK, with 1.8 million more gamblers at risk. However, a recent survey by GambleAware suggests this figure could be far higher.

Gambling firm 888 admitted in March that stress due to the coronavirus, and more time spent at home, could lead to an increase in problem gambling.

Carolyn Harris MP, chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group for Gambling Related Harm, says: “This multi-million pound industry has destroyed people’s lives. They resist change at every turn and claim to be reforming themselves but put forward limited changes. Their primary motive is profit.

“During the Covid pandemic they said they would end TV and radio advertising but just ended up replacing ads with ads – that none of us want to see. They have shown time and again that they will not effectively self-regulate. We cannot ignore this any longer. Urgent change is needed to stop this industry riding roughshod over people’s lives.”

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