A Christian advocacy group has welcomed the launch of a Government review into gambling laws, which will examine whether such laws are fit for the digital age.
Christian Action, Research, and Education (CARE) stressed the need for laws that “prioritise the protection of individuals from gambling related harms” and expressed hope that the review will help contribute to “genuine and real reform”.
Online restrictions, marketing and the powers of the Gambling Commission will be looked at as part of a call for evidence, to examine in detail how gambling has changed over the past 15 years.
Protections for online gamblers like stake and spend limits, advertising and promotional offers and whether extra protections for young adults are needed will all be explored.
The findings will be used to inform any changes to the Gambling Act 2005 to ensure customer protection is at the heart of the regulations, while giving those that gamble safely the freedom to do so.
The review will also look at evidence on the action customers can take where they feel operators have breached social responsibility requirements, such as intervening to protect customers showing clear signs of problematic play and how to ensure children and young people are kept safe from gambling-related harm.
The Government said it recognises the need to balance the enjoyment people get from gambling with the right regulatory framework and protections.
The launch of the review also comes amid the announcement that the minimum age for playing the National Lottery will be raised from 16 to 18 from October 2021.
Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), Oliver Dowden, said: “Whilst millions gamble responsibly, the Gambling Act is an analogue law in a digital age. From an era of having a flutter in a high street bookmaker, casino, racecourse or seaside pier, the industry has evolved at breakneck speed.
“This comprehensive review will ensure we are tackling problem gambling in all its forms to protect children and vulnerable people. It will also help those who enjoy placing a bet to do so safely.
“This builds upon our clear track record of introducing tough measures to protect people from the risk of gambling harm – banning the use of credit cards, launching tighter age verification checks and cutting the maximum stake on fixed odds betting terminals.”
Citing recent reports that the review would not start properly until 2021, James Mildred, CARE’s Head of Communications, welcomed the fact that the DCMS had launched its call for evidence before the new year.
Listing a number of gambling related harms, including serious financial loss, job losses and relationship and family breakdown, Mr Mildred warned that they can cause social devastation for individuals and whole communities.
“The existing 2005 Gambling Act is out of date in the digital age where more and more people are betting online, especially during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic,” he told The Catholic Universe.
“This review, which was a manifesto commitment, is the first step towards making significant changes to gambling laws and CARE will be making a robust case for positive change.
“From stronger actions against betting companies, to a mandatory levy to make sure gambling firms pay their share towards research and treatment, to tougher measures to protect children from gambling related harms.
“There are many areas where the law is currently weak and that’s why this opportunity to inform new laws is so welcome.”
Mr Mildred also welcomed the announcement that the minimum age for playing the National Lottery is rising to 18 from October next year.
“That particular loophole has existed for far too long and it’s right that it’s now being closed,” he said.
“We need laws that prioritise the protection of individuals from gambling related harms and we hope this review will help contribute to genuine and real reform.”
Picture: A woman plays online roulette.