For the past few years, the UK government and UK residents have been locked in a dispute about the state of the gambling industry. Only very minimal changes have been implemented in the last few decades, and campaigners have argued that not enough is being done to protect vulnerable people from gambling-related harm. The government finally agreed and announced a gambling reform, but due to the pandemic, it’s been repeatedly delayed. Finally, the government is starting to look at what needs to be done to reduce the impact that gambling has on peoples’ lives.
What Has Been Discussed in the Reform?
The reform focuses on two main issues – advertising, its uses and placement, and protecting those who choose to gamble from experiencing harm.
One of the most controversial pieces of potential legislation is the ban on front-of-shirt advertising. This potential ban would mean that gambling companies are no longer allowed to advertise on the front of players’ shirts. While this is a step in the right direction, many people have argued that this isn’t enough. Gambling companies are still allowed to sponsor the stadium, pitch hoardings or anywhere else on team members’ uniforms, which means that the people that this potential ban is supposed to protect will still see the advertising.
The second part of the proposed new advertising regulations focused on where adverts could be shown. For decades gambling companies have been banned from advertising before the watershed (9 pm). Despite this, bookmakers will still be able to advertise during prominent sporting events with a loophole that allowed them to sponsor uniforms or pitch hoardings instead. There was also no official ruling on social media advertising, simply because the law hadn’t been updated to reflect the population’s change in media consumption habits. One of the biggest issues with this is that it’s commonly known that social media platforms offer a “lite” version for anyone between the ages of 13 and 18, which is more restricted. Because of this, a lot of young people use a fake date of birth when they sign up, in order to get the unrestricted version. This can result in betting operators unintentionally advertising to minors.
A Change in the Way Things Can Be Advertised
The reduction in exposure to advertising is something that’s been focused on extensively throughout the last few years. Something that’s not been mentioned a lot is the content of the advertising, so it was a shock when the Committee for Advertising Practice (CAP) announced new restrictions that focused on exactly this.
The new rules set out by CAP state that advertising “must not be likely to be of strong appeal to children or young persons, especially by reflection or being associated with youth culture”. This is a big step up from the previous rules that simply stated that adverts should not “be of particular appeal to children”. This update is hugely significant and effectively bans any celebrities from brand deals with gambling companies. CAP themselves stated that top-flight footballers, those with a considerable following of under-18s on social media, all sports people well known to minors, references to video games or gameplay, and stars from reality TV shows like Love Island are now all banned from advertising bookmakers.
Currently, this is the only new guidance that has been announced as the review is still in the early stages. Having said this, there are already speculations on what will be included. Under the category of protecting people from gambling-related harm, several new measures have been suggested.
Other New Measures That Have Been Announced
Enhanced affordability checks through stricter credit checking have been suggested, stricter stake limits on the most high-risk online casino games and a limit on the number of turns taken per minute are all up for discussion. Controversially, loot boxes, which are a popular money making tool used in a lot of video games, could also be reclassified as a form of gambling after several protesters lobbied for the change.
It’s currently too early to tell what other changes are going to be included in the reform. While there’s a lot of talk about what will be covered, there has already been one big surprise for the industry with the ban on celebrity sponsorships. For now, it’s a case of wait and see for any other potential surprise regulations.
The Future of Gambling in the UK
Although there is never likely to be a time when gambling is completely prohibited in the UK, there is every chance that slot sites in the UK will be subject to further regulatory changes in the UK. The Gambling Commission, the Committee for Advertising Practice and the UK Government are regularly reviewing and changing the rules around gambling in the UK. This is often trend-led, so for example, as we see gambling being advertised on platforms where there is a potential underage audience, the rules are tweaked to take this into account. Online gambling isn’t anything new but it is something that has grown massively in popularity over the last couple of years, so it makes sense that the regulations surrounding this need to be brought up to scratch. Social media certainly wasn’t a thing when the rules and regulations were created so there would have been no rules that took any of this into place.
Technology now allows for quick affordability and ID checks to take place, so it stands to reason that online gambling operators are going to be encouraged to make better use of this. This takes away some of the pressure from the Government to keep potentially vulnerable gamblers safe, as it places the responsibility on the gambling operators themselves. When you consider how much money they make within this industry it makes sense that they are forced to use some of this to encourage safe and responsible use of their services. How this will be shaped in the future remains to be seen, but it is certainly something that the gambling industry should be prepared for.