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Under the Gambling Act 2005, it became possible, for the first time, to offer “remote gambling” from equipment based in Great Britain. The Act defines remote gambling as gambling where customers participate through the use of “remote communication” such as the internet, telephone, television, or radio.

Under the current system, an operating licence from the Gambling Commission is only required if at least one piece of remote gambling equipment is located in Great Britain. Remote gambling operators who locate all of their equipment offshore do not need a licence and are not subject to the regulatory supervision of the Commission, whether or not their remote gambling facilities are used by British customers. The 2005 Act does, however, prohibit overseas operators from advertising in Britain unless they are situated within the EEA (including Gibraltar), or in Antigua & Barbuda, the Isle of Man, or the States of Alderney and Tasmania (the “white listed” countries).

The Gambling (Licensing and Advertising) Bill would amend the 2005 Act so that all remote gambling operators would be required to obtain a licence from the Gambling Commission to enable them to transact with British customers and advertise in Britain.

The Government argues that this would increase protection for British customers as remote operators would be subject to robust and consistent regulation; required to support action against illegal activity and corruption in sport; required to contribute to research, education and treatment in relation to British problem gambling; and required to comply with licence conditions that protect children and vulnerable adults. The Government also claims the change would allow British-based operators to compete on an equal footing with other remote operators.

Clause 1 of the Bill would amend the 2005 Act so that a Gambling Commission operating licence would be required where no remote gambling equipment was located in Great Britain “but the facilities are used there” and the operator “knows or should know that the facilities are being used, or are likely to be used, in Great Britain”.

Clause 2 (1) would remove the current offence of advertising “foreign gambling” (and abolish the “white list”). This clause also extends to Northern Ireland. As the law in Northern Ireland does not currently regulate remote gambling or its advertising, the effect of this clause would be that remote gambling operators could advertise in Northern Ireland, regardless of whether they were regulated in Britain. Clause 4 of the Bill would therefore create an offence of advertising unlicensed remote gambling, to apply in Northern Ireland only, so that customers there would enjoy the same level of protection as British customers.

Clause 3 would amend provisions in the 2005 Act relating to “remote advertising”.

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