Gambling Act Review 2021: Is Change on the Horizon?

With the Gambling Act 2005 currently under review and an updated version expected to arrive in 2021, the question still remains on whether the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS) will bring changes that the gambling industry is desperate for. When I joined W2 my first key focus was speaking to UK gambling operators about affordability. Almost every operator I reached out to wanted to talk. The industry is littered with people who care passionately about responsible gambling, protecting the vulnerable and making sure their profits are not derived from people who can’t afford to be losing what they spend.

Then you must also think about the overwhelming majority of people that gamble responsibly – these people are not offended by sporting icons becoming ‘brand Ambassadors’, free bets and advertising. The current stigma surrounding the gambling industry coupled with the manner in which it’s become the pressing cultural hot potato brings with it a real problem that the Gambling Reform Act is going to be ‘a sledgehammer to crack a nut’ and end up not protecting the wider public. But then of course, some operators clearly don’t help themselves. You hear story after story about customers slipping through the net and losing fortunes, yet it seems operators have robust procedures in place to ensure profitable accounts are closed or restricted in days.

I really don’t profess to be an expert on this subject matter but my take on this Gambling Reform Act is this; the Gambling Commission already outline key expectations it puts on UK operators to act responsibly – both from an affordability perspective and a compliance & AML perspective. The guidance on understanding potential vulnerable customers and markers of harm is clearly laid out in the LCCP already. The expectations on AML obligations & protecting children are all there to see as well. The issue isn’t that this stuff isn’t already known, the issue appears to be that the Gambling Commission, the body that regulate the industry, doesn’t have the teeth it needs to enforce foul play in the industry and go further than fines which in the grand scheme of things, don’t impact operators enough to force them to radically change their procedures and ensure that player protection and responsible gambling is actually at the heart of their priority list.

I’m a golfer so I’ll bore you with a golfing analogy; slow play is crippling the game at present. Fining multi-millionaires isn’t going to deter slow players from playing slow, only disqualifications will drive the right behaviour. It’s the exact same thing in the gambling sector – ‘bad’ operators are only going to start taking serious note when licenses are taken away. We are still sitting patiently waiting for the Gambling Act Review 2021 to be announced and come into play, but clearly change needs to happen. And it needs to happen now.

W2 is doing everything possible to ensure that Gambling operators have the best procedures possible for those operators actually concerned with player protection, despite the lack of clarity on what to do, to enable them to honestly say they are doing all possible to prevent problem gambling and keep their players safe from spending more than they can afford.

To hear more about W2’s range of compliance solutions fit for the gambling industry, you can contact us here.

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