Betting Firms Have Been Lobbying the Government Over Reform
A report in the Guardian newspaper has revealed that senior employees of major online betting firms in the UK have been lobbying the government.
00:07 10 May 2022
A report in the Guardian newspaper has revealed that senior employees of major online betting firms in the UK have been lobbying the government in an effort to limit the impact of long-awaited reforms of the industry.
A freedom of information request revealed that executives from Bet365, Flutter and Entain had held an online meeting with the Treasury in which they laid out their concerns about the impact that changes to the law would have on their revenues, and consequently on tax receipts.
This month (May 2022) a white paper is expected to be published by the Department of Culture, Media and Sport, who are responsible for gambling legislation, in which wide-ranging proposals to curb advertising and limit consumer spend online will be set out.
Amongst the most impactful changes to the law that have been mooted are affordability checks to restrict what gamblers can spend each month, bans on sponsorship in sport, including the high-profile Premier League, TV and online advertising restrictions and limits on inducements to bet and VIP programs.
Industry leaders fear that the proposals will directly impact their most high value customer groups and push many legitimate gamblers into the arms of blackmarket sites based offshore who carry no license, offer less player protection and pay no tax.
The arguments for and against gambling reform on both sides have been made vociferously since a review of legislation was announced by the government.
Betting firms commissioned a report by PricewaterhouseCoopers in which they made the threat of blackmarket sites clear.
In a document submitted to the Treasury, the group said: “It is vital that the government takes a holistic view of tax and regulatory changes over the coming months or there is the very real risk that the UK’s remote gambling sector is hit in a way that not only reduces its economic and fiscal contribution, but also increases levels of gambling-related harm by incentivising a shift to unlicensed gambling operators that pay no UK tax.”
Those who support reforms say that not enough is being done to protect vulnerable people who become addicted to gambling. In 2021 a Public Health England study found that there are as many as 409 suicides a year related to problem gambling.
But a recent report from the UK Gambling Commission suggests that problem gambling rates are dropping. The latest official figures show 0.2% of the population are problem gamblers, down from 0.3% a year ago.
Industry group, The Betting and Gaming Council (BGC) claim that this is a result of self-imposed measures to tackle the issue including affordability checks set up by some operators, including Flutter, and responsible gambling messaging and promotion of safer gambling tools in advertising.
On the other hand, as recently as March this year a £9.4 million fine was handed out to 888 Holdings for responsible gambling and anti-money laundering failing from 2021 which shows that some firms are still not doing enough by the Gambling Commission’s standards.
The commission found that one customer at an 888 site was able to spend £65,835 in just five weeks without any check on their source of income.
Charities and those who have been impacted by problem gambling have expressed their anger at the industry’s attempts to influence legislation. The founders of Gambling with Lives, Charles Ritchie and his wife, Liz, said: “You have a highly profitable industry and the fines can be viewed as a cost of business. There needs to be a more effective punishment regime.”
Representatives from Bet365, who were involved in the meeting with the Treasury, said: “It is absolutely normal and appropriate for the government generally to engage with us and others in our industry in the context of its ongoing review of the Gambling Act, as would be the case across all sectors undergoing potentially significant regulatory changes.”
The white paper on gambling reform is expected in the next few weeks.