Operators on red alert after Sunak approves stringent online gambling reforms

Rishi Sunak approves stringent online gambling reforms
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In a blow to a number of gambling operators, UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has given his backing to a stringent set of industry reforms “to fix the catastrophe of online gambling“.

That’s according to Steven Swinford, Political Editor of The Times, who claims Sunak will “resurrect plans to curb online gambling amid concerns about the number of people who are becoming addicted”.

Sunak wants to “push ahead” and deliver on a Conservative pledge from their 2019 manifesto, with the long-standing issue of reviewing the Gambling Act high on the agenda.

Originally slated for release in 2019, the review has endured a number of delays and is now likely to be published after Christmas, though The Times claims “some in government” are pushing for it to go live before December 25.

Once fully formalised, though, it is expected to have significant repercussions on gambling operators and the way in which they conduct business.

Headline measures will include customer affordability checks and stake limits, controls which have been vehemently opposed by industry leadership.

Deemed as “credit checks”, The Times provided no further conditions on how affordability safeguards will be imposed on customers but cited that the government “will consult on the precise mechanism.” 

In a previous assessment of affordability checks and stake limits, the government outlined that measures could see “online gambling revenues could fall by as much as £700m.” 

Secondary measures will see the government impose a “more robust age verification to ensure that under-18s cannot do any form of gambling.” 

Proposals for changes to free bets and VIP packages were dropped, as the industry is recognised to have imposed mandatory safeguards curtailing previous concerns. 

As anticipated and supported by the industry, the government will institute a Gambling Ombudsman to deal with consumer rights and disputes.

Industry reforms will be adopted using secondary legislation, which requires no votes in Parliament.

Sunak was impartial on industry reforms during his tenure as Chancellor of the Exchequer, but has adopted a ‘softer’ approach after consultations with senior NHS clinicians on gambling harms and suicide.

Last week, NHS doctors called for the government to place suicide prevention at the front of the reform’s agenda, stating that addiction clinics were witnessing a surge in demand for treatment and support for gambling addiction.

Gambling addiction clinic figures disclosed to The Times revealed that “599 patients have been referred to the service in the past six months, a 42% increase on the same period last year and up 65% from 2020-21”.