Gambling laws in the UK have been rapidly escalating in recent years, with politicians and regulators alike trending towards a more restrictive approach. In stark contrast to the liberal attitudes of recent years, a change in political winds has seen authorities become seemingly more hostile to the gambling industry, as they continue to ratchet up measures in the name of player protection.
Now the UK Gambling Commission has gone a stage further, in announcing a raft of new measures that will likely prove even more restrictive on gambling operators and customers. According to an announcement earlier this week, the Gambling Commission has agreed new provisions in concert with a group of 30 gambling operators to introduce a series of new measures designed to offer greater “player protection”.
Co-ordinated by the Betting and Gaming Council, the group of operators were invited to a series of workshops run by the Gambling Commission on the issue of making gambling safer. The resulting measures have been drawn up in response to the issues raised at the workshops, with indications they could come into force as soon as 14 April.
Chief amongst the new restrictions is an age limitation on VIP tiers, setting a minimum threshold of 25 years old for participation in these programmes. New measures will also be introduced to throttle the speed of play, removing turbo buttons and increasing spin times on slots games, as two examples. The new measures will also introduce a series of new rules on gambling advertising, which the Commission says are aimed at protecting vulnerable gamblers from adopting harmful gaming behaviours.
Neil McArthur, the CEO of the Gambling Commission, said the measures were aimed at protecting those in vulnerable groups.
“We have been encouraged by the progress on VIP incentives, safer advertising and safer products. We set these challenges to deliver real and rapid change for consumers in key areas of risk.”
“However, it is important these commitments are implemented as soon as possible. It should not take months to implement safeguards many would expect to be in place already. We will now consult on the necessary changes to our rule book to ensure all operators have to meet the new standards.”
The measures are to be broadly welcomed, and of course, anything that helps prevent problem gambling should be encouraged. The gambling industry is for the most part responsible, and willing to back reforms of this kind to their own detriment for the good of those most affected by problem gambling.
However, it is worth remembering that there are questions of proportionality to be considered. Several studies indicate problem gambling percentages are on the decline or remaining static, and still account for only a tiny minority of those gambling in the UK – yet the restrictions take effect on players of all backgrounds, including those not at risk from developing problem gambling behaviours.
While the UK Gambling Commission appears to be proceeding with the best of intentions, it’s worth being live to the often unintended consequences of restrictive legislation. With a legitimate, respectable industry in the UK, the Commission should continue working with licensed operators to develop a settled regulatory model.