Gambling Minister Chris Philp is adamant that drastic changes are imminent in the industry, affirming that reform is “undoubtedly long overdue” amid a spate of recent UK betting operator fines.
Speaking at yesterday’s Gambling Reform Rally, organised by the Gambling Related Harm APPG (GRH APPG) and Peers for Gambling Reform (PGR), Philp claims publication of the white paper is due “soon”, which will map out a revised policy on an area that needs “significant reforms”.
Philp stated that there are “too many cases of operators failing to meet their duties to protect people”, referencing the recent £9.4m fine meted out to 888 Holdings by the UK Gambling Commission (UKGC) over social responsibility and money laundering failures.
The minister stressed the importance of prevention before cure, lamenting the 409 gambling suicides a year, as estimated in a Public Health England report. Philp cited the recent, highly publicised coroners’ report into the death of Jack Ritchie.
There are clear, identifiable ways in which change can be initiated, according to Philp, including the implementation of a Single Customer View, which consists of data sharing and affordability checks.
He said: “One of the things I’ve spoken about previously is the role that technology and data can play in preventing harm from arising, because the big gambling companies have enormous troves of data which they use very effectively for the purposes of cross-selling, and encouraging people to gamble more.
“I think we need to use that data to help protect the public, which means having a regulator that has the powers and capability to get hold of that data and properly analyse it, to understand where bad practices are happening and ensure compliance.
“There is a new Chair and Chief Executive of the Gambling Commission who were appointed in the middle of last year, who we are working closely with, to try and figure out these changes.”
Currently, there are only two gambling clinics in the UK – one in London and one in Leeds. However, the Government is committed to opening 15 more over the “next couple of years”, with three already under development in Stoke-on-Trent, Southampton and Telford.
While Philp asserted that the UK is a “free country” and people should be allowed to gamble, the Minister was at pains to highlight the “very dark place” that the current legislation, which was last comprehensively reviewed 17 years ago, is leading some people to.
“I hope you’ve gathered from my comments and the case studies that I’m very powerfully seized by, that I recognise the need to do more to protect people,” Philp concluded. “409 suicides a year just isn’t acceptable. People are being exposed to risks in an unreasonable way, led down what can be a very dark path.
“So we are going to act, and act quickly. We’ll do it in a way that is balanced and proportionate, that is led by the evidence. But we’re going to act, and act quickly.”