Online Gambling under Attack in Upcoming UK White Paper

Virtually any day, the UK is going to release its gambling white paper, the document that will define gambling activity in the country for years to come. When it arrives, Brits might find extreme measures curtailing online gaming.

UK Gambling Minister Chris Philp
UK Gambling Minister Chris Philp
UK Gambling Minister Chris Philp. He is spearheading the government’s gambling white paper, which will several handicap online gambling. (Image: SBC News)

UK Gambling Minister Chris Philp addressed the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) Committee recently, providing insight into what’s coming. He made it clear that “online casinos” and “online slots” are the two primary focuses of the government’s major gambling law overhaul.

There had already been discussion about extreme staking limits and far-reaching financial controls for the iGaming sector. No one is willing to admit the real reason behind the initiatives. However, the outcome is an increase in revenue for the land-based gambling market.

The Edification Void

Philp used as evidence a 2018 survey on problem gambling rates to justify his position, according to the Evening Standard. This is despite a number of newer, more scientific studies and surveys being readily available.

Based on that survey, draw-based games, including the lottery, are safer alternatives. The problem gambling rate, Philp asserts, with lottery products is just 0.9% and 1.4% for scratch-offs.

On the other hand, “other activities” have a problem gambling rate of “2.7% to 12.7%.” However, no study has produced a problem gambling rate of 12.7% in the UK’s gambling industry. In addition, even more recent surveys the UK Gambling Commission conducted showed that the rate is as low as 0.2%.

A study, as cited by the National Library of Medicine in the US, showed that the lottery is the “most popular form of gambling with problem gamblers.” Next, card games followed, then casino gambling and gaming machines.

Another study also refutes Philp’s stance. Land-based gambling is still far more popular than online gambling. Moreover, the amount of money spent at land-based casinos outpaces that of online alternatives by about 4 to 1.

Lottery Gets a Free Pass

Philp added in his presentation that the National Lottery produces around £4 billion (US$4.76 billion) in “gross yield.” It also recently reported sales of £8.37 billion (US$11 billion).

This makes it the largest of any gambling segment. However, the government reportedly doesn’t include any restrictions on the lottery in its update.

In fact, during the meeting with the DCMS, Philp made it clear that the government is giving the National Lottery a free pass. Furthermore, when MP Kevin Brennan asked about the use of credit cards for gambling, Philp asserted that this is not an option.

However, DCMS Director of Gambling Ben Dean pointed out the hypocrisy of the response. It is possible for consumers to purchase lottery tickets with a credit card. However, he also pointed out that consumers can’t purchase lottery products on the National Lottery website with a credit card. For that, there are workarounds.

The expected changes to the UK’s gambling industry are already finding significant resistance. There has been little input from the industry to help develop the new laws and the result could be a disaster.

The legal online gambling segment helped the UK stay alive during the COVID-19 pandemic. Restricting it now without considering verifiable data is a step in the wrong direction.

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