Background

Gambling Act 2005

The Gambling Act 2005 (as amended) regulates gambling in Great Britain. The Act has three licensing objectives:

  • preventing gambling from being a source of crime or disorder, being associated with crime or disorder or being used to support crime.
  • ensuring that gambling is conducted in a fair and open way.
  • protecting children and other vulnerable persons from being harmed or exploited by gambling.

The Gambling Commission enforces the Act. The Commission issues operating licences for gambling operators and publishes licence conditions and codes of practice (LCCP). Local authorities are responsible for issuing premises licences to authorise premises to provide gambling facilities. Gambling Commission guidance for local authorities (May 2021) gives further detail on the statutory framework and the role of local authorities.

Gambling Act Review

A Gambling Act Review ran from 8 December 2020 to 31 March 2021. The terms of reference are available on GOV.UK.  There were over 16,000 submissions. In a PQ response of 24 March 2022, the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) said that a white paper setting out its conclusions and next steps would be published “in the coming weeks.” The Guardian has reported that the white paper is due in May.

There are Library Papers on some of the issues covered by the Review, including:

On 28 October 2021, Ronnie Cowan asked whether the regulation of loot boxes would require primary legislation. The DCMS replied on 4 November 2021:

We ran a call for evidence from September to November 2020 to examine concerns around loot boxes in video games. The government is continuing to evaluate the evidence received from over 30,000 responses to the call for evidence, along with an independent Rapid Evidence Assessment commissioned from the InGAME research and innovation centre. Additionally, we have continued a dialogue with the games industry to develop effective and proportionate solutions in response to issues identified from the evidence. The government response outlining planned next steps is due to be published in the coming months. [UIN 65450]

Gambling operators can advertise across all media in Great Britain. The Gambling Commission’s Licence Conditions and Codes of Practice require operators to comply with the Advertising Codes, administered by the Advertising Standards Authority. Section 328 of the 2005 Act gives the Secretary of State powers to make regulations about the form and content of advertisements, their timing and location.

On 10 November 2021, in response to a Lords PQ on what steps the Government is taking to either restrict or ban gambling advertising on social media, the DCMS said:

All gambling advertising, wherever it appears, is subject to strict controls on content and placement. Gambling operators advertising online, including through affiliates, must abide by the advertising codes issued by the Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP) and the Gambling Commission may take enforcement action against them if they do not. The CAP consulted earlier this year on proposals to strengthen the codes and further limit the presence of gambling adverts for the protection of children and vulnerable people. Changes to safeguard vulnerable adults were announced this summer, and the full outcome is to be announced before the end of the year.

Following work with the Gambling Commission, the industry has also committed to make better use of advertising technology to target adverts away from children on social media. The Gambling Industry Code for Socially Responsible Advertising now requires operators to ensure paid-for advertising is targeted only at those over 25 years old on social media and to age-gate operator YouTube channels and content.

As part of our wide-ranging Review of the Gambling Act 2005, we called for evidence on the benefits or harms of allowing operators to advertise, including on social media. A White Paper will be published in due course. The Government is also looking more broadly at how online advertising is regulated through the Online Advertising Programme, which will be launching a public consultation this year. Our aim is to foster fair, accountable and ethical online advertising that works for individuals, businesses and society as a whole. [HL 3475]

The Government has said that the Football Index collapse, and the findings of an independent Review, would inform its response to the Gambling Act Review.

House of Lords report

Many of the issues that the Gambling Act Review sought views on were examined in a July 2020 House of Lords Committee report: Gambling Harm – Time for Action. The Government’s response (CP 326) to the Committee’s report was published on the same day (8 December 2020) as the Gambling Act Review was launched and began by noting:

Work is already underway to deliver many of the Committee’s objectives and new initiatives have been set into motion by its recommendations. We have committed to review the Gambling Act 2005 to make sure it is fit for the digital age and the priorities for action as set out in the Committee’s report are reflected in the wide scope of that Review, details of which have been published separately. We share the Committee’s goals of making gambling safer and tackling gambling harms, and we thank it for laying the groundwork for continued government progress, both as part of and separately to the Act Review.

Many of the Government’s responses to the Committee’s recommendations refer to the Gambling Act Review.

Resources

Parliamentary material

There were Lords questions on the Review on 9 February 2022 that may be of interest.

Debates

Jack Ritchie: Gambling Act Review, HL Deb 21 March 2022 cc133-40

Gambling Advertising, HL Deb 1 March 2022 cc757-71

Finance (No. 2) Bill (Fourth sitting), HC Deb 5 January 2022 cc83-102, Public Bill Committee

Gambling-related Harms, HL Deb 14 October 2021 cc1960-75]

Review of the Gambling Act 2005, HC Deb 22 July 2022 cc1242-50

Written Questions

Asked by: Vickers, Matt | Party: Conservative Party

To ask the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, what recent steps her Department has taken to help tackle harms that can be caused by problem gambling.

Answering member: Chris Philp | Party: Conservative Party | Department: Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport

We are currently conducting a Review of the Gambling Act 2005 to ensure gambling regulation is fit for the digital age. This builds on action by the government and the Gambling Commission to strengthen protections in recent years including cutting the stake on gaming machines in betting shops, banning gambling on credit cards, mandating operator participation in the national online self-exclusion scheme GAMSTOP, tightening restrictions on VIP schemes, making online slots safer by design and raising the minimum age of sale of National Lottery games.

In 2019, DCMS secured a commitment from industry to contribute £100m over four years to problem gambling treatment. NHS England and the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) are also continuing work to improve and expand specialist treatment services, with up to 15 new NHS clinics set to open by 2023/24. Since 2020, children have been taught about the risks relating to gambling, including the accumulation of debt, as part of the statutory Relationships, Sex and Health Education curriculum in England.

24 Mar 2022 | Written questions | Answered | House of Commons | 141328
Date tabled: 16 Mar 2022 | Date for answer: 18 Mar 2022 | Date answered: 24 Mar 2022

Asked by: Viscount Astor | Party: Conservative Party

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what steps they are taking in conjunction with the Gambling Commission to prevent unlicensed online gambling.

Answering member: Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay | Party: Conservative Party | Department: Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport

The Government is reviewing the Gambling Act 2005 to ensure it remains fit for the digital age. As part of its broad scope, the review called for evidence on the size of the black market for gambling in Great Britain and the ease with which consumers could access illegal gambling websites. The report by PwC on unlicensed gambling will be considered as part of the review.

The Gambling Commission assesses information gathered from multiple sources and works closely with partner agencies to prevent access to illegal websites by consumers in Great Britain. If the Commission decides to take action against an illegal operator, it will initially issue a Cease and Desist letter. If this action does not prove successful, it will use disruption techniques, which includes using its relationships with web-hosting companies to suspend or IP-block consumers in Great Britain from accessing websites, contacting payment providers to remove payment services, and liaising with social media sites to prevent websites appearing on search engines or being hosted. The Commission will also use some of the additional income that it is receiving from its recent fees uplift to increase its ability to tackle illegal gambling.

The Commission is aware that some illegal websites are targeted at people who experience significant harms from their gambling and self-excluded gamblers. The Commission is particularly focused on identifying and disrupting these illegal operators.

16 Mar 2022 | Written questions | Answered | House of Lords | HL6587
Date tabled: 03 Mar 2022 | Date for answer: 17 Mar 2022 | Date answered: 16 Mar 2022

Asked by: Shannon, Jim | Party: Democratic Unionist Party

To ask the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, what steps he is taking to raise public awareness of the danger of gambling addiction.

Answering member: Chris Philp | Party: Conservative Party | Department: Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport

A variety of initiatives are in place across the gambling regulatory framework, health services, and the educational curriculum to protect individuals and the wider public from harmful gambling and raise awareness of its risks.

As part of the statutory Relationships, Sex and Health Education curriculum in England, young people are taught about the risks relating to gambling, including the accumulation of debt. To support teachers to deliver these topics safely and with confidence, the Department for Education has also developed a series of training modules, one of which has a specific section on gambling.

The Gambling Commission requires all gambling operators to make information available to customers on how to gamble safely and how to access information on problem gambling and the support available. Most operators signpost to the charity GambleAware’s begambleaware.org site, which contains a wide range of information on risks as well as links to advice and support, including the 24 hour National Gambling Helpline. The NHS webpage ‘Help for problem gambling’ covers common indicators which suggest that individuals may be experiencing harmful gambling, as well as advice and links to treatment services. Work is also being done to raise awareness through frontline practitioners, with GambleAware publishing a competency framework for primary care practitioners to improve the awareness and responsiveness of Primary Care to gambling harms.

Since 2019, GambleAware’s ‘Bet Regret’ campaign, a commitment from the government’s last Gambling Review, has effectively encouraged awareness of risky betting behaviours and action to help regain control, as well as signposting to further support. Members of the Betting and Gaming Council have also committed 20% of their advertising on TV and radio to safer gambling messaging and the Industry Code for Socially Responsible Advertising requires social responsibility messaging throughout the length of all broadcast gambling adverts.

The Government’s Review of the Gambling Act 2005 aims to ensure gambling regulation is fit for the digital age. As part of the wide scope of that Review, we called for evidence on the effectiveness of safer gambling messaging across a number of media, and we are considering the evidence carefully. We will publish a white paper in the coming weeks.

14 Mar 2022 | Written questions | Answered | House of Commons | 135493
Date tabled: 07 Mar 2022 | Date for answer: 09 Mar 2022 | Date answered: 14 Mar 2022

Asked by: Harris, Carolyn | Party: Labour Party

To ask the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, whether she has made an assessment of the extent to which exposure to gambling advertising is a predictor of (a) at risk and (b) problem gambling among secondary school children.

Answering member: Chris Philp | Party: Conservative Party | Department: Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport

Public Health England’s evidence review of gambling-related harms did not find any review-level evidence that exposure to advertising is a risk factor for harmful gambling. However, we are aware that gambling advertising can have a disproportionate impact on some groups, such as those who are already experiencing problems with gambling, and there are aspects of advertising which can appeal to children.

While rules are already in place to prevent advertising from causing harm to children and vulnerable people, the Committees of Advertising Practice (CAP) has recently implemented strengthened protections for adults who are vulnerable to gambling harm. A further announcement on new rules aimed at reducing the appeal of gambling adverts to children is also expected shortly.

The Government is reviewing the Gambling Act 2005 to ensure it remains fit for the digital age. As part of its broad scope, the review called for evidence on the benefits or harms of allowing operators to advertise and engage in sponsorship arrangements. We are considering the evidence carefully and will publish a White Paper outlining conclusions and next steps in the coming months.

01 Mar 2022 | Written questions | Answered | House of Commons | 128363
Date tabled: 23 Feb 2022 | Date for answer: 25 Feb 2022 | Date answered: 01 Mar 2022

Oral Questions

Gambling Industry Reform, HC Deb 15 March 2022 cc748-9

Public Health: Media Advertising, HL Deb 28 February 2022 cc537-40

Racing Industry: Gambling, Hl Deb 10 February 2022 cc1065-6

Gambling Act 2005, HL Deb 9 February 2022 cc1633-7

Veterans’ Strategy Action Plan: Gambling Addiction, HL Deb 27 January 2022 cc443-6

Gambling Act 2005: Review, HC Deb 6 January 2022 cc134-6

Reports

Select Committee on the Social and Economic Impact of the Gambling Industry, Gambling Harm— Time for Action, HL Paper 79 2019-21, 2 July 2020

Public Accounts Committee, Gambling regulation: problem gambling and protecting vulnerable people, HC 134 2019-21, 28 June 2020


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