After enough hype, build-up and speculation to bring shame on the release of a new Marvel movie, the government has finally started its review of UK gambling laws. Officials from the Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sports are reviewing the 2005 Gambling Law, determined to restart the legislation so that it better fits the modern era.

They certainly have their work cut out for them. The Gambling Act of 2005 is widely regarded as a creaky, spiderweb relic of the days before super-immersive smartphones and betting sites. Or, as Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden puts it, “The Gambling Act is analog law in the digital age,” stuck at a time when gambling meant “floating in a bookie, casino, racetrack or pier. by the seaside”.

The idea is to equip legislation to deal with today’s landscape of glitzy live casino games, fast-paced virtual slots, in-game sports betting and VIP programs filled with promotions, all available 24/7. / 7 on our phones. This follows strong and passionate calls for the government to tame the gambling industry and better protect vulnerable groups like children and problem gamblers.

Are new regulations imminent?

Last summer, a House of Lords select committee released a report on gambling harms, which did no harm, going so far as to propose a total ban on sports sponsorship by gaming companies. The chairman of the committee, Lord Grade, was also not mince words, saying that “lax regulation of the gaming industry must be replaced by a more robust and targeted regime that puts the welfare of the players first. before industry profits.

This is not to say that regulators have stood idly by since the inception of the Gambling Act of 2005. A number of brakes have recently been applied by the industry watchdog, the Gambling Commission. Last year it introduced a ban on the use of credit cards to finance betting. In February of this year, he ordered online casinos to limit the speed of their slot machine games and remove “losses disguised as wins”. This is when the games play happy little jingles when a player loses money, making it a positive outcome.

But even more dramatic changes are on the horizon with the impending overhaul of the law on gambling. All kinds of new regulations will be up for debate – including stronger controls over the design of games to make them less addictive, tighter limits on stakes, and accessibility checks to assess player credit. According to the Guardian, an insider says it all adds up to a “reformer’s shopping list.”

Black market risk

However, the Betting and Gaming Council has sounded the alarm over the undiminished popularity of black market online casinos that are not licensed by the Gaming Commission and do not offer guarantees, checks or tools. responsible gaming to users. BGC chief executive Michael Dugher warned that stretches of tighter regulations threatened to “unintentionally lead punters into the arms of the illegal online black market.”

It is certainly entirely possible that if new legislation suddenly makes it more difficult to play on legitimate sites – for example, by forcing players to submit income details to pass accessibility checks – then there may indeed be. have an exodus to black market sites that don’t have one. filters in place. This would be a dangerous situation for people prone to compulsive gambling, and it could even endanger jobs. According to the latest UK gambling industry data, 98,174 people are currently employed in the industry, and any number can be affected if there is a drastic change in the way casinos and sites sports betting is allowed to operate.

Is sport the first target?

The most seismic possibility of all is a total ban on sports sponsorship. It has been a hot topic among journalists and activists for some time. The Big Step gaming charity has called for an end to gambling sponsorship to “protect the millions of impressionable young football fans who are bombarded with advertising bets on shirts, around the field.” Former Tottenham player and recovering gambling addict Steven Caulker also spoke out, saying “having gambling ads everywhere, including on your shirt and on the side of the pitch, doesn’t help.”

On the other side of the debate, many have warned that sweeping crackdowns could go too far. Sports promoter Barry Hearn has said that canceling all gambling sponsorship would be “a disaster for every level of sport”, stressing that the problem goes far beyond football. “There are a lot of sports – and darts and snooker are two – where a fair amount of that money goes down the chain down to the grassroots,” he said, “which actually saves money. government money. “

When it comes to football, while only the smallest fiddlers will play for the mega-rich Premier League clubs losing out on lucrative betting sponsors, there are real fears about how the lower tier teams will fare. without the influx of money from the betting companies. Last October, the English Football League – which encompasses the league and leagues one and two – issued a statement stating that “the significant contribution of betting companies to the continued financial viability of professional football at all levels is equally important than it has ever been ”. , especially given how pandemic restrictions have left small teams on the “financial edge.”

Of course, this is all speculation at the moment, and it will be a long time before the changes to the law on gambling are known. In the meantime, it is a difficult time for people on both sides of the debate, and all bets are off on what might unfold.

By Vinod Gill

Chief Editor and reporter. Major onsite works and development.

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