What’s on the table next for gambling operators in Great Britain? If the recently released Gambling Whitepaper has anything to do with it, it’ll be a raft of new measures to reduce gambling-related harm and strengthen government powers, including the introduction of a statutory levy. The levy is just one of many suggestions in the long-awaited whitepaper that was delivered to the UK government in April of 2023.
Affordability checks were one of the main areas explored, particularly for those customers who tend to lose substantial amounts of money within a relatively short time frame. Thus, special attention was given to players who lose £1000 in a day or even £2000 over 3 months. It is also noteworthy to highlight the fact that losses of funds may come in many shapes and forms, whether bettors choose to use their bundle of no deposit free spins or other casino bonuses.
The delivery of the Gambling Act whitepaper
After over 16,000 submissions, multiple delays, and plenty of heated debate between clashing industry parties, the Gambling Act whitepaper was released in April 2023. Since its announcement in 2020, the whitepaper has been hotly anticipated by both operators and gambling harm minimization lobbyists alike.
The whitepaper, titled High stakes: gambling reform for the digital age, is designed to be a re-imagination of the Gambling Act 2005, to address the new ways of gambling for a fully mobile generation.
Since 2005, much has changed in the ways that people gamble, the offerings available to the public, and the globalization of always-available, high-tech services offered via mobile. The Gambling Act 2005 no longer seems appropriate to be in place as the standard of operation for gambling services in 2023.
The new whitepaper is full of suggested reforms that will be rolled out and overseen by the UK Gambling Commission, as the government extends its powers, responsibilities, and duty of care to the UK public.
The suggested reforms
The suggested reforms cover a wide range of measures that are designed to protect the public from harms related to gambling, and have been theorized after long consultation with a wide range of parties, along with the baseline Gambling Act 2005.
Broadly, they cover online protections for players and products, marketing and advertising, the powers and resources of the UK Gambling Commission, dispute resolution within the industry, protections for children and young adults, and, as a smaller part of the review, land based gambling.
While the whitepaper is long-form in the majority of its finding, there is a table that includes the key policy proposal summaries, who is to be in charge of the proposal, and the next steps including dates against each proposal. For the majority of proposed reforms, the body in charge is the UK Gambling Commission, so they have a lot of new work on their hands to implement the reforms in the paper.
About the statutory levy
One of the proposals in the paper is the introduction of a statutory levy for gambling operators.
“Introducing a statutory levy paid by operators in scope directly to the Gambling Commission to fund research, education and treatment of gambling harms.”
This is to be rolled out through secondary legislation, with the next steps being DCMS consultation on design and scope in the summer of 2023, which is right now. This new levy is to help further fund the activities outlined in the Gambling Whitepaper.
The horse racing industry already has a similar levy, which is also referenced within the paper. The original Gambling Act 2005 allowed for the creation of this new levy, however, it didn’t come to pass over the last 18 years.
Other countries such as the Netherlands already have such a levy for online operators, some of which goes towards their Addiction Prevention Fund. A similar model is being explored in Great Britain.
The details of the new levy
With such a broad level of guidance, simply that there should be a compulsory levy that goes towards research and education, the rollout of this new levy may take some time. There is no indication of an amount, or which pool the funds should go into, nor how it is managed beyond simply ‘the Gambling Commission.’
A new levy will also take some time to move through government systems, since it must be enacted through secondary legislation. The red tape and bureaucracy involved in such systems typically make for a slow-going process.
While it is concerning for gambling operators, for bodies such as GambleAware, it is welcomed as a move towards better gambling treatment for those at risk. We will wait to see what happens with the talks underway this summer to see what the immediate and long-reaching impacts of this new levy will be.