The Betting and Gaming Council (BGC) on Monday warned against introducing mandatory spending limits for players in Great Britain after a new YouGov survey showed that two thirds of bettors (65%) believe there is a large risk that setting limits on the amount of money spent on betting would drive more people to the unsafe, unregulated black market online, while 56% thought the Government should not set limits on how much money they could bet. BGC CEO stated ministers should “stop being so complacent about the dangers of the unsafe, unregulated black market online.”
Conservative voters and Brexit supporters from key Red Wall constituencies say that ministers “should not be sticking their noses in” by interfering with individuals having a bet in the UK.
Focus group research conducted by Public First in key seats the Conservatives must retain at the next election found voters were concerned about intrusive plans for bettors amid expected widespread reforms of the industry.
Around 22.5 million adults in the UK bet each month but, according to the Gambling Commission, the rates of problem gambling are now at 0.2% of the population, down from 0.4% recorded a year before. This problem gambling rate survey, which is conducted quarterly, has been a consistent measure for this issue since 2013.
Black market gambling has more than doubled in just two years from 220,000 users to 460,000, and the amount staked there is now in the billions of pounds, putting at risk the safety of consumers, a PwC study commissioned by the Betting and Gaming Council showed.
Threats to personal freedom and Government interference in consumer spending choices were pivotal for Red Wall voters when discussing measures considered as part of a review of the Gambling Act 2005. Fears were expressed too that strict blanket affordability checks would simply drive bettors to the illegal black market.
The Government is expected to lay out its plans for a review of current regulations in a White Paper set to be published this summer.
The BGC also voiced last month its opposition to affordability checks, which it said would “undermine the customer experience” and also force players to black market sites. However, while it said there was clear opposition to a blanket approach to spending limits, which would apply to all players, there was support for a method where mandatory limits could be set for consumers showing signs of problem gambling.
Voters recognized that betting companies should step in and stop potential problem play, but ordinary bettors should not be victims of a blanket approach. Despite the concerns, there was a broader level of support for checks on bettors displaying signs of risk.
Commenting on the findings, Betting and Gaming Council CEO Michael Dugher stated: “At the BGC we support the Government’s Review of Gambling as an important opportunity to further raise standards, build on the changes introduced in recent times and the welcome reductions in problem gambling rates. But ministers need to act in a way that is carefully targeted at problem gamblers and those at risk, not the overwhelming majority of the 22.5 million Brits who enjoy having a bet each month”.
“This latest polling and focus groups in key battleground constituencies shows how outraged punters will be if the Government listens to anti-gambling prohibitionists who want to interfere in people’s privacy and freedom of choice, by demanding personal documentation before you can have a bet, and by banning things and generally spoiling their enjoyment just because some politicians look down their noses at people who like a bet. People think politicians live on a different planet as it is. Telling them what they can and cannot do with their own time and their own money isn’t going to help fix that perception”, he continued.
“Ministers should also stop being so complacent about the dangers of the unsafe, unregulated black market online. It’s real and it’s growing, and it is targeting vulnerable people and problem gamblers. This is not an argument against change. It’s an argument for getting changes right. Ministers need to be careful and smart – and they need to be wary about overreaching themselves and interfering unnecessarily in people’s lives,” he concluded.
The research featured seven focus groups in Wolverhampton, Stoke, Blackpool, Doncaster, Durham, Leigh and Wakefield, was carried out in April 2022 and comes ahead of the government’s publication of the Government’s White Paper on gambling, expected in the coming weeks.