The chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Gambling Related Harm (APPG) has sensationally claimed that the ‘writing is on the wall’ for the UK online gambling industry ahead of expected tighter regulatory controls.
Carolyn Harris told the Gambling Review podcast from iGaming Business that once new regulatory measures are introduced, it will be very difficult for all online casinos to succeed.
Harris believes that the public and media both want to see radical change and that the ‘attitude towards problem gambling has changed completely.’
“The writing’s been on the wall for about two years now and I think it’s imminent that there will be change,” she said.
The Labour MP referred to a number of key areas, including advertising and sponsorship and computer game ‘loot boxes’, as other possible avenues that the government’s new-look gambling reforms will target.
Discussion also focused on casino VIP schemes, and Harris claims that these should be removed altogether rather than mild reforms – a possibility that the revised Gambling Act 2005 might serve up.
“They have to get rid of the VIP section,” she said. “This industry makes more money from VIPs than from all the rest of [their customers] put together.
“If a company did this, they’d still be a profitable company, but they wouldn’t be as profitable. You could still have an online presence making a sensible profit, but not an online presence making an obscene profit and ruining people’s lives. I know which I’d rather.”
Gambling Commission Targeted
In the wide-ranging conversation, Harris also launched a scathing attack on the UK Gambling Commission.
Harris believes that the authority should be independently reviewed after claiming it was ‘not fit for purpose’, commenting ‘…I just can’t see how the Gambling Commission can continue in its current form.’
“It is unfit for purpose, whether that’s a lack of resources or lack of staffing, I have no idea, but something is wrong and it’s not working.
“This is not an organisation that needs tweaking; it needs changing completely.”
UKGC Launches Affordability and Intervention Consultation
Meanwhile, the Commission has launched its own consultation into a toughening of measures relating to how casino operators identify customers who are at risk of problem gambling behaviours.
They are gathering stakeholder opinion on a range of topics, which include how interactions with problem gamblers are performed and how operators then take action.
Some of the ideas floated include how casinos act on information they have gathered about an individual’s possible vulnerability, and how they perform and analyse affordability assessments of a player’s spending.
The Commission is also seeking ideas on where the affordability threshold should be set, and their executive director Tim Miller said: “Whilst some operators have continued to improve their customer interaction processes, our evidence shows that many online operators are not setting thresholds for action at appropriate levels. They are not taking the appropriate action or acting quickly enough when they do identify risks of potential harm.
“We are clear on the need for gambling companies to take further action and that the Commission must set firm requirements to set consistent standards.
“But we want to have an open discussion with the gambling industry, consumers, people with lived experience and other stakeholders, to ensure we strike the right balance between allowing consumer freedom and ensuring that there are protections in place to prevent gambling harm.”