Online casinos will face tighter restrictions under government proposals to revise Britain’s gambling laws, but most of the measures will be subject to further consultation, signaling an even longer delay in the long-awaited changes.
A white paper will be published on Thursday, the result of a review launched in 2020, after being postponed several times.
The ministers will reveal plans aimed at making gambling more secure, following a series of high-profile cases in which customers suffered heavy losses or took their own lives.
Concrete measures expected in the white paper include:
A mandatory 1% tax on industry income
Bets on online slots are limited to between £2 and £15
Measures to slow down online casino games
Looser restrictions for land-based casinos
Government-led safer gambling campaigns
Some of the most disputed measures, including affordability controls for high-loss gamblers, restrictions on digital marketing and the exact level of betting limits on online slots, are expected to come under further inquiry. , amid a legislative backlog in parliament.
Iain Duncan Smith, the former Conservative leader who chairs a multi-party parliamentary group examining the damage of gambling, told The Guardian he was concerned about the white paper, warning that putting so many measures up for consultation was “tantamount to doing nothing”. .
It is understood that there has been no decision on the limits of bets on online slot machine games, which are currently unlimited despite having some of the highest addiction rates of any gambling product.
The consultation is likely to propose £2 limits for under-25s, in line with the limit for customers of all ages on shop-based fixed odds betting (FOBT) terminals. Older players can wager up to £15 per spin, but the exact levels will be decided at a later date.
As for affordability checks, which campaigners say could prevent people from suffering financial ruin, the government is understood to be leaning towards a light-touch option, which would see businesses carry out credit checks when customers lose a certain amount.
Lobbyists for the £11bn a year industry have campaigned strongly against tighter controls that would require operators to require proof of earnings.
However, the ministers are expected to ask the Gambling Commission, the industry regulator, to ask when to carry out such checks. An early draft of the white paper called for doing so for gamblers who lose £1,000 in one day or £2,000 in 90 days.
Digital marketing deterrents, such as promotions sent to customers offering “free” bets or bonuses, are also set to go to further inquiry.
Two sources with knowledge of the discussions said a “legislative backlog” in parliament, partly due to measures required as a result of Brexit, made it impossible to introduce new marketing restrictions without a potentially lengthy consultation process. Advertising is not expected to face any new restrictions in the white paper.
In a letter to fellow ministers, culture secretary Lucy Frazer said any drop in industry revenue as a result of the measures “will be the loss of income for people gambling unaffordably,” the Times reported. .
As expected, the industry will be subject to a new mandatory 1% on its “gross gaming revenue”, effective revenue, to fund addiction education, treatment and research.
A 1% levy would have raised more than £100m in each of the three years before the pandemic hit industry revenue.
The gaming industry currently makes voluntary contributions that vary by company.
The Department of Health is also expected to take responsibility for safer betting messaging, which is currently overseen by the industry itself and the charity GambleAware.
While ministers hope to impose stricter restrictions on online gambling, land-based casinos will see regulation eased.