The Gambling Act 2005
1. Are the three primary aims of the Gambling Act 2005 (to prevent gambling from being a source of crime or disorder, to ensure that gambling is conducted in a fair and open way, and to protect children and other vulnerable persons from being harmed or exploited by gambling) being upheld?
From the perspective of the European Lotto Betting Association (eLBA) the primary aims of the Gambling Act 2005 are being upheld. While we recognise that operators should continuously strive to improve their operations in order to prevent any gambling-related harm, we consider the current state of compliance with the Gambling Act to be satisfactory.
2. What changes, if any, are required to bring the Act up to date with new technology and the latest knowledge about how gambling harm is distributed?
No specific changes to be necessary at the current moment.
3. Is gambling well regulated, including the licensing regime for both on- and off-shore operations? How successfully do the Gambling Commission, local authorities and others enforce licensing conditions including age verification? What might be learned from comparisons with other regulators and jurisdictions?
As an industry body representing lottery betting operators, who offer their products exclusively online, we consider the existing regulation applicable to online gambling operators to be sufficient and well-designed. Online operators have to comply with a range of sophisticated requirements and regulations, many of which have not been replicated for land-based retail gambling operators. The recently introduced system for age verification of online gamblers is an example of this.
In many ways online gaming/gambling regulations and their enforcement are more sophisticated than those applicable to retail operators due to the multiple additional levels of control. This has been demonstrated by previous test purchasing campaigns carried out by Camelot, which showed that nearly one in 10 stores failed to perform appropriate age-verification of customers attempting to purchase gambling product on at least one occasion.
4. Should gambling operators have a legal duty of care to their customers?
Gambling operators have a legal responsibility to comply with existing regulatory restrictions and to operate in good faith. This responsibility represents their duty of care for their customers.
As gambling operators all eLBA members are aware of the risk to consumers and are committed to complying with all necessary regulation in order to ensure that customers are protected and are playing responsibly. It is important, however, to find a balance between providing sufficient regulatory protection for players and allowing them free choice and access to their preferred gambling product without excessive barriers.
5. What are the social and economic costs of gambling? These might include costs associated with poor health and hospital inpatient services; welfare and employment costs; the cost of benefit claims; lost tax receipts; housing costs through statutory homelessness applications; and criminal justice costs.
The socio-economic costs of gambling are difficult to determine in isolation due to the close association of problem gambling with a range of other issues including poor mental health and substance abuse amongst others. Attempting to attribute the costs associated with such problematic behaviors to a single industry/set of products is unhelpful and even counterproductive as it often conceals issues of larger scale.
As gambling operators eLBA members are dedicated to responsible gambling practices and believe that addressing gambling-related problems requires a comprehensive cross-sector approach, which emphasizes early education and problem detection as well as appropriate mental health services for those who struggle with problem gambling.
6. What are the social and economic benefits of gambling? How can they be measured and assessed?
Gambling operators contribute taxes and duties to the national budget like any other industry and provide jobs to a number of employees. Gambling winners also often give back to society through taxes or donations to good causes.
Furthermore, gambling operators are often engaged in corporate and social responsibility schemes that aim to provide concrete social benefits such as boosting research capabilities on general addiction issues (e.g. the creation of Centre of Excellence at the University of Gibraltar) or educating the public on relevant issues.
When it comes to low-stakes games such as lotteries and small-scale bets, gambling can provide a fun social activity and a tool for team building in workplaces and similar environment.
7. Is the money raised by the levy adequate to meet the current needs for research, education and treatment? How effective is the voluntary levy? Would a mandatory levy or other alternative arrangement be more productive and effective? How should income raised by a levy be spent, and how should the outcome be monitored? What might be learned from international comparisons?
Evaluating the degree of adequacy of the money raised by the levy is difficult without clarity about the way in which contributions are utilized. As gambling operators eLBA members would like to gain better understanding about the specific ways in which their contributions are spent as well as about the ways in which those spending are determined and overseen.
In this context, the Swedish approach could be a useful guideline. The public in Sweden is able to access openly and online comprehensive information about the ways in which the money paid by the gambling industry is being distributed.
8. How might we improve the quality and timeliness of research in the UK? What changes, if any, should be made to the current arrangements for funding, commissioning and evaluating research in the UK? What might be learned from international comparisons?
eLBA recognises the potential risks associated with gambling and is of the firm belief that those should be subject to thorough scientific research and analysis. However, in order to ensure that all potential impacts are well-understood, research on gambling-related issues should seek to explore presumed positive as well as negative consequences of gambling.
This should include research into the different risk profiles of various gambling products with a view of differentiating between lower-risk/long-odds products such as betting on lottery offerings and higher-risk/short-odds ones such as casino games. Such an understanding is crucial for the development of efficient knowledge-based public policy on responsible gambling.
9. If, as the Responsible Gambling Strategy Board (RGSB)1 has suggested, there is limited evidence on which to base sound decisions about gambling by children and young people, what steps should be taken to rectify this situation? 1 Now called the Advisory Board for Safer Gambling.
More needs to be done in order for protect children and young people from gambling related harm. This has been well-demonstrated by the survey on Young People & Gambling, published in November 2018, which revealed that 14% of the surveyed young people (aged 11-16) admitted to having gambled recently. This rate makes gambling the most prevalent potentially harmful activity amongst young people followed by alcohol consumption (13%) and smoking cigarettes (4%).
Any efforts seeking to mitigate this need to be carried out in a comprehensive manner involving various stakeholders including the Department of Education, healthcare authorities and others. In this context, carrying out appropriate research and educational campaigns is crucial. This could include surveying school children on gambling-related topics in order to probe their understanding and behavior and carrying out workshops for educators, children and their families in order to raise awareness of the problematic nature of so called “harmless betting” (bingo, in-built purchases in games etc.). Healthcare centers should provide more information regarding gambling risks to youths and their families. Furthermore, efforts should be made towards removing the taboo surrounding problem gambling/gambling addiction in the society at large in order to facilitate access to information and help for those who might need it.
10. Is enough being done to provide effective public education about gambling? If not, what more should be done?
Current efforts towards providing public education about gambling are insufficient. This is well demonstrated by the information collected by Lottoland, a member of eLBA, in the context of their P.A.R.E.N.T. campaign. According to the data, 45% of UK parents with children aged 7-16 describe their knowledge of the risks associated with online gaming as poor, extremely poor, or neither poor nor good, and 39% admit the same with regards to online gambling. Furthermore, more than a third (38%) of UK parents admitted to having been forced to pay charged as a result of their children’s online gaming habits despite having had no prior knowledge/understanding of the costs involved.
Such statistics demonstrate that the understanding of parents and young people about the risks of gambling is low and needs to be boosted. In an attempt to remedy this issue, the P.A.R.E.N.T programme will launch an educational curriculum on social gaming and the associated risks for schoolchildren in Gibraltar starting in September. Following this example integrating responsible gambling/gaming topics in the school curriculum across the UK would be an important step towards boosting awareness and understanding.
11. Are the services available for the treatment and support of people at risk of being harmed by gambling sufficient and effective? How might they be improved? What steps might be taken to improve the uptake of treatment, particularly among groups who are most likely to experience harm from gambling and least likely to seek help?
The main problem with access to treatment for individuals at risk of gambling-related harm is that such treatment is often available at later stages when the harm might already be significant. In order to tackle this, competent authorities should not only provide more options for early detection and treatment but should focus on removing the societal stigma when it comes to those issues. In doing this the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport should work in close cooperation with health and education authorities. Gambling operators should also be involved and cooperate with authorities on raising awareness and providing support.
12. What steps should be taken to better understand any link between suicide and gambling?
Further research into mental health issues and intervening factors is necessary step towards the development of more efficient mental health services and suicide prevention. Such research, however, should seek to accomplish a comprehensive understanding about all the factors that might contribute to suicide, including lack of adequate early stage support for people who struggle with mental health, substance abuse and financial problems amongst others. Assuming a direct link between gambling specifically and suicide is a reductionist approach, which overlooks the wide range of circumstances that might contribute to the decision of individuals to end their life.
Research into gambling, suicide and related issues in the UK should seek to use the knowledge already accumulated by researchers abroad. Researchers from Sweden, for example, have already made some progress on the topic. To this end the UK competent authorities should seek to establish cross-border cooperation with their counterparts in other countries.
13. The RGSB has said that by not taking action to limit the exposure of young people to gambling advertising “we are in danger of inadvertently conducting an uncontrolled social experiment on today’s youth, the outcome of which is uncertain but could be significant.” 2 Do you agree? How should we make decisions about the regulation of gambling advertising? What might be learned from international comparisons?
eLBA members from their perspective as online betting on lottery operators disagree with the notion that currently there are no limitations regarding the exposure of young people to gambling and gambling advertising. In fact, eLBA members find that advertising regulations applicable to them have already introduced considerable and effective restrictions in order to prevent exposure of young people to gambling advertising. Admittedly, eLBA members recognise that this might not necessarily be applicable to other forms of gambling such as sports betting. However, in the case of betting on lottery this statement does not apply.
Gambling and sport
14. Gambling is becoming an integral part of a growing number of sports, with increasingly close relationships between operators and sports clubs, leagues and broadcasters. What are the risks attached to this?
Gambling by young people and children
15. How are new forms of technology, including social media, affecting children’s experiences of gambling? How are these experiences affecting gambling behaviour now, and how might they affect behaviour in the future?
New forms of technology have in some cases facilitated easier access and exposure to gambling-related products/getaway products for children and young people. A good example are social gaming products that allow in-game purchases and/or feature Pay-to-Play or Pay-to-Win elements, whose use and costs is often understood poorly by parents and/or by the children who use them. This has been backed by research carried out in the context of the P.A.R.E.N.T campaign (see above) which showed that 16% of the surveyed parents of children aged 7-16 had no knowledge whatsoever of many terms associated with online gaming, many of which imply the use of real money in exchange of improving the odds of better performance or improving the player experience.
Normalisation of the use of real money for the achievement of improved odds/experience (associated with instant gratification) in the digital environment could have potentially problematic consequences for young people’s attitudes towards gambling.
16. The legal availability of certain forms of commercial gambling to under-18s in Great Britain is unusual by international standards and has been described as an ‘historical accident’. Should young people between 16 and 18 be able to purchase National Lottery products, including draw-based games, scratch cards and online instant wins?
eLBA members believe that the legal age for access to ALL forms of commercial gambling should be 18 and these restrictions should include National Lottery products.
17. Should children be allowed to play Category D games machines (which include fruit machines, pushers and cranes)? 2 https://www.gamblingcommission.gov.uk/PDF/RGSB-Gambling-and-children-and-young-people-2018.pdf, p.12. 3 https://www.gamblingcommission.gov.uk/PDF/RGSB-Gambling-and-children-and-young-people-2018.pdf, p2. 4 Lotteries
Children should NOT be provided access to any type of gambling products regardless of their perceived risk profile. There is no such thing as a harmless gambling product. Category D games machines could act as gateway gambling products for young children.
18. The restrictions on society lotteries were relaxed by the Gambling Act 2005, and there is concern that some of them are effectively being taken over by larger commercial lotteries. Is this concern well founded? If so, what should be done?
No, such concerns are not well-founded. Every consumer should have the right to choose what licensed product they would like to purchase.
As long as all applicable competition laws (e.g. those prohibiting the formation of cartels etc.) are respected, there is no need for a return to the restrictions on society lotteries.
19. Should changes be made to the statutory regime governing the National Lottery, to bring it into line with the regime governing operators of other lotteries?
The minimum age for playing the National Lottery games should be increased to 18 in order to be in line with the requirements for restricted access to minors to all gambling products.
14 August 2019