A 150-strong group of peers within the House of Lords have committed to campaigning for reform of the gambling industry with the aim of informing the government about urgent changes to betting regulations.

Peers for Gambling Reform’ (PGR) will be Chaired by Lord Foster of Bath (Liberal Democrat). Vice Chairs of the Group will include Lord Smith of Hindhead (Conservative), Baroness Armstrong (Labour), Lord Butler (Crossbench) and the Bishop of St Albans.

The cross-party group of peers will promote the recommendations of the House of Lords Select Committee on Gambling to ensure that the Government and the Gambling Commission take early action to implement changes to regulation that are deemed necessary.

In a statement, the new group explained: “The Gambling Act 2005 liberalised gambling. But an even greater impact came from the subsequent advent of smart phones and with them on-line gambling and on-line, targeted marketing. Individuals could gamble unsupervised 24/7 in an “analogue” regulatory regime unprepared for the digital age. 

“Gambling operators have exploited this laissez faire regime and successive governments and regulators have failed to keep up with the revolution in UK gambling.” 

Setting out its key priorities, PGR aims to address:

  • Effective affordability checks for gamblers to prevent harm
  • An enforceable ‘duty of care’ on the gambling industry to seek to avoid harm
  • Speed of play and stake limits for on-line gambling – with a triennial review of all stake limits
  • Testing for harm and the classification of all new gambling products
  • A mandatory ‘smart levy’ on the industry to fund the costs of research, education and treatment
  • A ban on direct marketing and all inducements and an end sports sponsorship
  • A Gambling Ombudsman ‘to redress wrongs’
  • Gambling regulation for Loot Boxes, which develop gambling in children
  • A Reform of VIP schemes
  • An NHS-led and commissioned treatment system to treat gambling addiction.

Lord Foster of Bath, Chair, Peers for Gambling Reform, said: “Given that we have a third of a million problem gamblers, including 55,000 children, and one gambling-related suicide every day, action is urgently needed. Online gambling companies have cashed in on the pandemic, making more profit and putting more lives at risk. 

“This new group of 150 peers from across all sections of the Lords seeks to ensure urgent action is taken by the Government to reform our wholly outdated regulation. It is Time for Action.”

Lord Smith of Hindhead, Vice-Chair, Peers for Gambling Reform, added: “I enjoy the occasional flutter, like many millions of others, but I am only an advocate of responsible gambling and professional operators. The Lord’s Select Committee, on which I was privileged to serve, has highlighted some important issues which need to be addressed.”

Peers for Gambling Reform says that it ‘will be pressing for early and radical action by the Government to redress the wrongs that are being done, particularly as the Government moves towards its Gambling Review’.

Lord Butler of Brockwell, Vice-Chair, Peers for Gambling Reform, said: “Gambling in Britain has developed in ways that impact the lives of many people, not least children, and are of serious concern. The amount of exposure which children receive from advertisements for gambling on social media and television is profoundly worrying.”

Earlier this year, the House of Lords’ Social and Economic Impact of the Gambling Industry Committee commissioned its report entitled ‘Gambling Harm – Time for Action‘, which called for urgent steps to be taken to address harms caused by gambling. 

The report, which took over one year to compile, made an enormous 66 recommendations including the raising of the minimum age for National Lottery and any online gambling to 18 years old, the replacement of lottery duty with a gross profits tax and the creation of a statutory independent Gambling Ombudsman Service.

Commenting on the launch of PGR, Lord Grade of Yarmouth, Chair of the Social and Economic Impact of the Gambling Industry Committee, commented: “I am delighted to support Peers for Gambling Reform, which has been formed to press for the implementation of the recommendations of the Select Committee which I Chaired. 

“These are recommendations which need urgent implementation if the harm suffered by problem gamblers and their families is to be alleviated. Most of the recommendations can be implemented without primary legislation; they cannot wait for the long-promised Government review of the Gambling Act. I send the Group every good wish in taking forward this vital work.”

Responding to the launch of Peers for Gambling Reform, Michael Dugher, CEO of the Betting and Gaming Council, said: “As the new standards body for the regulated sector, the BGC is committed to driving big changes in the regulated betting and gaming industry.

“It is important to remember that the vast majority of the nearly 30 million UK adults who enjoy an occasional flutter every year, either on the Lottery, bingo, sports, casinos or gaming, do so perfectly safely. But one problem gambler is one too many and that is why – like the new peers’ group – we also support reform. It is also why we welcomed the House of Lords committee report into the social and economic impact of the gambling industry earlier this year.

“Since being set up last year, the BGC have introduced a range of measures to ensure we are leading a race to the top on standards. These include cooling off periods on gaming machines, encouraging deposit limits, closing off VIP schemes to under-25s and massively increasing funding for research, education and treatment.

“At the start of the Covid lockdown, BGC members voluntarily removed all TV and radio advertising, and have agreed that at least 20 per cent of those ads will be safer gambling messages going forward.

“Our members also introduced the whistle to whistle ban on TV betting ads during live sports programmes, which has reduced the number seen by young people at those times by 97 per cent. And from 1 October, tough new measures will come into force to further prevent under-18s from being able to see betting adverts.

“We want to go further, however, and that is why we look forward to working with the Government on the forthcoming Gambling Review.”