More UK Gambling Reform Details Emerge as Health Experts Reject Responsible Gambling Levy

The UK government believes a 24-year-old is capable of voting on who will lead the country, but incapable of spending more than £2 (US$2.49) gambling online. This comes as anti-gambling legislators look to take responsible gambling measures to the extreme, an effort even some health experts say will fail.

Rishi Sunak addresses Parliament soon after taking over the UK government
Rishi Sunak addresses Parliament soon after taking over the UK government. The gambling white paper is getting closer to release, and a rumor of strict limits in online gambling have surfaced again. (Image: AP News)

There’s still no date for the government to introduce its gambling white paper, which will contain the biggest reform in almost 20 years. However, with the framework reportedly almost ready for delivery, there’s plenty of scuttlebutt on what it will present.

The Sun reportedly has an inside track on the updates, and said that how much people can spend gambling through online slots will continue to be restricted. There could be limits of between £2 and £15 (US$18.65), with the former targeting anyone under 25.

Down The Rabbit Hole

The idea of a £2 limit isn’t new – it’s been a reported part of the UK’s gambling reforms for over a year. The difference now, though, is that the white paper is on the verge of being released. This means that, if The Sun’s data is correct, the limits are more than just idle chatter.

The white paper will be a roadmap of the government’s expectations for the gambling industry, but it won’t be the final word. It’s a draft version of the regulations that will still be open to final review among lawmakers and that will also need input from gaming industry insiders. Only after those consultations will the final version of the new laws be ready for implementation.

There are also rumors of far-reaching affordability checks, although how these would work is still unclear. The government and supporters of the checks have tried to downplay the initiative, now referring to them as “credit checks.”

There’s still a chance that the final version of the new gambling regulations will take a softer approach. There have also been rumors of an almost complete ban on advertising, but some parliamentarians have voiced their opposition to this measure.

Forced Taxes Miss The Mark

Another recent rumor about the contents of the white paper has suggested that a mandatory levy on operators is coming. This would replace the “voluntary” contributions they give to the government and the UK Gambling Commission (UKGC) now.

To date, gaming operators have given hundreds of millions of dollars toward responsible gambling initiatives. Several, such as Flutter and Entain, have also pioneered internal risk prevention measures.

All of these efforts are part of the reason why the problem gambling rate in the UK is less than 0.2%. Should the government force the new levy, according to several health experts, all of that work will have been for nothing.

An article in the British Medical Journal (BMJ) yesterday attempts to explain what will happen with a mandatory levy. The report, Statutory levy on gambling may do more harm than good, is the result of a collaborative effort between leading health experts in the UK and Australia.

The report’s authors assert that problem gambling is on the rise, but that the UK government has done little to address it. They add that it has done little to “support independent gambling research, education, and treatment.”

Creating policies without proper research is a dangerous game – one that some might even call gambling with peoples’ lives. The authors acknowledge that current responsible gambling funding comes from voluntary contributions, adding that a statutory levy has “major flaws.”

Primarily, those flaws, per the authors’ conclusions, would be the result of the gaming industry’s attempts to disrupt the new status quo. The levy would also do little to actually get consumers to change their gambling habits.

More Harm Than Good

The report, citing previous studies, states, “A levy also diverts attention away from advertising controls and product regulation, an approach that could be expected to be more effective.” The simple act of implementing the levy would also give legislators a way to pat themselves on the back without continuing to explore the issue.

The authors add, “If a levy deflects questions about how much harm should be tolerated and on what grounds, it risks doing more harm than good.” Therefore, instead of developing a half-cocked solution based on limited data, research on a large scale is necessary in order to formulate the best approach.

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