We have focused on the issue of gambling since 2006, following the introduction of the Gambling Act 2005. In particular, we are concerned about the growth and addictive nature of online gambling, and the increasing numbers of children and young people who are addicted to gambling.
Tool to care for Problem Gamblers
We have been at the forefront of legislation designed to help problem gamblers get the help they need to overcome addiction. We supported Lord Browne of Belmont and Jim Shannon MP, who pressed for the inclusion of an amendment in the Gambling (Licensing and Advertising) Act 2014 to introduce a one-stop shop for self-exclusion.
Self-exclusion is a widely accepted mechanism designed to protect problem gamblers. Anyone concerned with their gambling habit can contact their gambling provider and request they are not served for a fixed period, with the minimum being six months. The provider is then unable to serve the individual until this fixed period ends. Self-exclusion can potentially work well in an offline context, as an individual can visit their local betting shop and inform them of their decision to self-exclude, cutting themselves off from nearby gambling outlets.
However self-exclusion online is much more difficult, due to the proliferation of gambling websites available. CARE has argued that this should be addressed through the introduction of a tool known as ‘multi-operator self-exclusion’ (MOSES). This enables online problem gamblers to register their self-exclusion with the Gambling Commission, meaning all licenced gambling websites would then be unable to contact them. The Government opposed these proposed amendments but agreed to require the Gambling Commission to make provision for MOSES. This multi-operator system, GAMSTOP, is being delivered by the Remote Gambling Association. It should become fully operational by the end of 2018. This means any gambler in the UK will be able to self-exclude from all licenced gambling sites at once.
We also worked with Lord Browne to secure a debate in the Lords on MOSES in November 2017, which fed into the Government’s Gambling Review. CARE also facilitated a seminar with recovering problem gamblers, hosted by Lord Browne and Baroness Howe of Idlicote.
For a number of years we have campaigned for legislative intervention concerning the use of fixed odds betting terminals (FOBTs), known as the ‘crack cocaine of gambling’ due to their combination of very high stakes and high speed of play. It is possible to lose £300 a minute and up to £18,000 in an hour using one of these machines. There are many cases where individuals have lost thousands of pounds, their jobs, families and, most tragically, their lives due to their addiction to FOBTs. These machines target the poorest sections of society and more than £13bn has been gambled in the poorest quarter of the country-almost double that in the richest regions. A report by ResPublica for the Campaign for Fairer Gambling outlines the case for lowering the stakes on FOBTs.
This is a particular concern in Scotland, where our research has shown that 14.5 million people--almost 10 per cent—of the population know someone personally with a gambling problem.
In 2014, we developed a Private Members Bill proposing to reduce the maximum stake per spin from £100 to £2. We have continued to advocate for this change and gave evidence to the All Party Parliamentary Group on FOBTs and gave representations to the Government in their recent gambling review.
In 2018, we were delighted that the Government announced it would introduce legislation reducing the maximum stake per spin to £2. On 1 April 2019, the new £2 limit came into force across Great Britain. This is a hugely welcome step in the right direction.
While we welcome the new £2 limit across Great Britain, we remain disappointed that no steps have been taken to also reduce the stake in Northern Ireland, where problem gambling rates are much higher than the UK.
We continue to work with parliamentarians to make sure the new limit is enforced, as well as advocate for similar legislation to apply to Northern Ireland.
Gambling and young people
We are particularly concerned about the increasing numbers of children and young people who are gambling online, particularly through the use of games that do not require money in order to play and through the proliferation of gambling advertisements which children are exposed to. The Responsible Gambling Strategy Board (RGSB) recently published advice to the Gambling Commssion, calling on ministers to take action on the normalisation of gambling in children and young people. The report found that more than 90 per cent of young people have been exposed to gambling adverts on television and social media, and that more than 10 per cent of under 16s had gambled in the previous week. They also found that 25,000 children between the ages of 11 and 16 are problem gamblers.
CARE is calling for a watershed on gambling advertising on television and greater use of age-verification tools for online gambling sites.
We have recently spoken out about betting ads on sports shirts. There is a ban on betting companies advertising to children, yet they are side-stepping this by sponsoring football clubs. 9 out of 20 Premier League teams and 17 out of 24 Championship teams are sponsored by gambling companies.
Young people are exposed to betting company logos on the shirts of footballers, whom they view as role models, and this normalises gambling to a young audience and puts them at risk of addiction.
Sports betting television ads are also frequently shown around sporting events prior to the 9pm watershed. In December 2018, the gambling industry confirmed plans to push ahead with a volountary ban on betting ads during live, sporting events from this summer (2019).
CARE welcomes this move, but we will continue to call for the watershed to be extended to cover all sports betting ads and for this to be a mandatory requirement. We also want to see a wider public debate around the relationship between the gambling industry and football.