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UK – Gambling Business Group urges preparation for ‘inevitable’ overhaul of gambling laws

By - 2 December 2019

Peter Hannibal, CEO of the strategic cross sector Gambling Business Group (GBG), is urging the industry to start preparing for what he believes is an ‘inevitable’ overhaul of gambling legislation and for the low stake retail sector in particular to ensure that it does not become a secondary consideration in the political discourse.

Mr. Hannibal’s warning follows the latest reference to gambling legislation by a political party with the Conservative manifesto referencing the Gambling Act as being ‘an analogue law in a digital age’ before going on to confirm a commitment to review it, with a particular focus on tackling issues around loot boxes and credit card misuse.

“A review of gambling legislation is now inevitable, what ever the make-up of the next parliament” stated Mr. Hannibal. “We should look upon this as an opportunity to re-set the narrative around gambling in the UK, but this will require a different approach from everyone, not least from the industry itself. This is going to happen, and we need to be preparing for it now. A common voice for the low stake sector has never been more relevant and necessary. We need to examine ways in which the various low stake gaming verticals can collaborate, at the very least on the big ticket items such as empirical research to help inform the debate.”

With the industry more focussed on tactical fire fighting in order to deal with the here and now, the GBG chief executive believes now is the time to start establishing its strategic objectives and to agree how, precisely, it is going to achieve its goals. “While it could be two years before we see any real movement I think it’s essential that we start the process immediately after we know the outcome of the general election,” he stated.

“Whilst the Tory Manifesto is focused on internet gambling, this is an opportunity to re-set the dial and there are a number of things we must consider. Firstly we must make the distinction between gambling and gaming. Gambling licence fees should not used for the regulation and policing of the ‘gaming industry’. Loot boxes are not a product of our making and where the concept of ‘let the polluter pay’ is used to justify the Gambling Commission’s financial model and in relation to RET, it should also be applied to the ‘gaming’ industry.

“A review should also be seen as a relevant point to stop the precautionary principle being used as a default in relation to the potential harm caused by gambling. Harm is a symptom, it is not a cause and not everyone is vulnerable to gambling harm, far from it. Treating symptoms is only ever a short term strategy, in the long term it resolves nothing.”
“Members of the industry who were around at the time will remember that the 2005 Act was intended to be an ‘enabling Act’, designed to be able to accommodate and adapt to technological change. Best intentions never materialised because the negative narrative killed off the political appetite. Both of the main parties are now on the same page which makes change inevitable whatever the outcome of the December 12 election. This is an opportunity to start over and we must use it.”

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