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Online betting curbs don't go far enough

23 February 2024
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New limits on online slot machines fall short of what is required to truly protect vulnerable gamblers, CARE has warned.

Today, the government announced a maximum stake of £2 for under-25s playing online slot machines. Over-25s will be limited to a £5 max stake.

Responding to the announcement, Tim Cairns, Senior Policy Officer at CARE, commented:

“Whilst any stake limit is to be welcomed, we are disappointed at how narrow the government’s approach is. By focusing on slot type games alone, ministers have ignored the harm of other online games that are also addictive by design, and which pose serious risk of causing gambling harm.

“Online casinos represent almost £4 billion in revenue for gambling companies annually. The majority of gross gambling yield in this sector comes from slots – £3 billion – but this still leaves almost £1 billion that will not be covered by a stake limit. Given the need for consistency, it would be preferable for all online games to be subject to the same rules and stake limits. This would be less confusing for consumers, and it would disincentivise the industry from developing addictive products that fall outside of stake limit regulation.

“We are also concerned that the maximum stake limits settled on by the government are too high. A staggering 97% of online stakes are already £2 or under, yet harm is still being caused. We would question if a £5 limit for over-25s is going to have any real impact when almost no one in gambling harm is placing stakes anywhere close to that limit. Evidence shows that harm increases when stakes are above £1, so a limit of £2 per spin for young people will have a negligible impact on limiting harm.”

Mr Cairns also emphasised the need for other, significant reforms:

“The government must outline a range of substantive measures that confront gambling harms. Big gambling has spent 20 years making its product more addictive, easier to play, and available 24/7 whilst ignoring pleas from suffering individuals. This has led to endemic levels of problem gambling. If gamblers are to be kept safe, advertising needs to be cut and the gambling industry needs to be placed under a levy that is sufficient to properly meet the public health crisis it has inspired. At least five per cent of industry profits.

“The government propose a levy of 1% for online gambling and 0.4% for traditional high street bookies and casinos. Gambling companies make almost £15 Billion per year from British punters, so the Government’s proposed levy would bring in about £100 million. It is estimated that the average cost of treatment for a person with a gambling disorder is just over £600. Britain has around 400,000 people who need treatment, making the annual cost of treatment in excess of £240 million. It is clear this proposal falls far short of a fair share of gambling profits.

“We need a substantial compulsory levy to be placed on gambling companies. Money from this can go to treatment services that free people from the chains of addiction, but also into the crucial areas of research and prevention. The proposed levy simply isn’t enough to tackle the problem. We believe a 5% levy is required to match the scale of gambling harms. This levy would come far closer to meeting the desperate needs of vulnerable Brits affected by problem gambling. Big betting has caused the problems we are seeing in society, and it is time it was forced to take responsibility."


Notes for Editors

Christian Action Research and Education (CARE) is a social policy charity, bringing Christian insight to the policies and laws that affect our lives.

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