In its 2019 General Election Manifest, the Conservatives promised to hold a review of the 2005 Gambling Act. This would be the first step towards changing the law. The promise of a review reflected growing awareness and alarm about the impact of gambling related harms. Such harms have been intensified thanks to the coronavirus pandemic which, with its strict rules and restrictions on social activities has created the ‘perfect storm’ for gambling addicts.
Earlier this month, the Permanent Secretary at the Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport told the Commons Public Accounts Committee that she couldn’t provide details of when the review would take place. In fact, Sarah Healey hinted that the department had been so busy with the coronavirus pandemic, it simply hadn’t got round to it. It was only a few months before that the media was suggesting the Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, was going to take personal charge of the review.
MPs and Public Want Change
One of the striking things about shifting attitudes towards gambling within the House of Commons is it unites normally ‘opposite-sided’ MPs. Such is the deep concern around gambling related harms, that staunch Labour MP Carolyn Harris and former Tory party leader, Iain Duncan Smith find themselves on the same side of the debate.
There’s a real danger the Government could end up firmly on the wrong side of the public mood and expectation on this debate. What the public seem to realise with growing horror is that gambling related harms is causing genuine social devastation and impact affects families and whole communities. The promised review is only the first step towards law change. It’s realistic to expect that once the review is finally launched, it’ll be at least two years before substantive change is implemented. All the while, men, women, boys and girls continue to suffer.
395,000 Adults Problem Gamblers Across UK
In July, a major report from the House of Lords laid bare the scale of gambling related harms. Among its grim findings, consider the following:
- There are an estimated 395,000 adult problem gamblers in the UK
- 55,000 11-16-year olds are classified as problem gamblers
- On average one person commits suicide because of gambling addiction every day
- The gambling industry spends £1.5bn a year on advertising and 60% of its profits come from the 5% who are already problem gamblers.
- Gambling addiction can lead to family breakdown, job loss and severe financial hardships.
Especially shocking is the finding that on average, one person commits suicide because of gambling addiction, every day. This is unspeakable tragic. The awful reality of the gambling industry is that it promises great rewards, it makes gambling look easy and fun. But the gruesome reality is that for some, it costs them their lives.
You Can Help
These findings are why this all matters. God calls Christians to stand up and be counted and to speak out on behalf of those more vulnerable than ourselves. We should aim for a significant Christian influence on politics and laws. It is right, therefore, to contribute where we can to help shape gambling laws that focus, primarily, on protecting vulnerable people from gambling related harms.