The Parliament has pressured the UK’s government to tighten online gambling rules as lawmakers are concerned that people stuck at home during this Covid-19 pandemic will rack up massive losses due to its lack of safeguards.
Last Thursday, the House of Lords Gambling Industry Committee published a report calling for bet limits, online play limits and the banning of gambling content advertising around sports and sports merchandise. This report came less than a week after the House of Commons committee said that the Gambling Commission, which was tasked with the industry’s regulation, has failed to protect consumers adequately as iGaming businesses see a rather big increase in usage.
This has worried some politicians, especially those of the Conservative Party who need the treasury income the industry provides, now more than ever. Richard Holden is pushing for a £2 stake limit for online fixed-odds games. This push will match the limit on machines in casinos and similar betting shops and as well as encourage tougher regulation.
The recent March lockdown has been a problem for many businesses but has been a massive stimulate for online businesses such as online retailers, video and music streaming services, and gambling firms are no different. Last June, both 888 Holdings and GVC Holdings reported strong financial performance, as they both have performed ahead of expectations and both also have traded strongly despite the pandemic.
Since publishing the report, the committee has set a number of recommendations across different key points in order to reduce gambling-related harm. Since the gambling industry offers varied products to its consumers, of which some of these are highly addictive. The committee has recommended that the Gambling Commission should create a system that tests new games against established harm indicators which should also include a test for their addictiveness and appeal to minors. The Committee recommends that if a game scores too highly against harm indicators it must not be approved.
Another recommendation targets the speed of play and spin games. These games must be played at the same pace as the spins games found in casinos, bookmakers, or bingo halls. Also, part of the recommendation is the disallowing of advertisements of gambling on sports venues and sports teams or any visible part of their uniform and equipment. The committee has also recommended that the government must act immediately to put loot boxes within the jurisdiction of legislation and regulation because lootboxes are virtual consumables in-game able to be traded into different rewards or items (loot) without certainty on what item you are getting.
This serves as a problem not only in the gambling industry but also in the gaming industry as well because of the high probability of user addiction. The Committee also urges the Gambling Commission to set minimum steps that operators should take in order considering customer affordability, identifying them, and making sure that they are not betting more than what they can afford.
Finally, the committee has recommended the creation of a statutory independent modelled after the Financial Ombudsman Service, the Gambling Ombudsman Service, to settle disputes between gambling operators and gamblers.