The Gambling Related Harm All-Party Parliamentary Group (GRH APPG) has requested a £2 limit on all online slot machine games in a bid to mitigate the risks associated with online gambling.
The request follows from a six-month review of the impacts of problem gambling, with the group emphasising the need for further action from the government and the UK Gambling Commission (UKGC) to address the issue.
The cross-party group argued that there is no rationale for online slot games having stake levels above the £ 2 limit currently in place across retail facilities, with the APPG underlining the disparity among online and offline games in content controls and stake and deposit limits.
Chaired by Carolyn Harris MP, the GRH APPG took evidence from academics, problem gamblers, banks, charities, and online gambling operators, amongst others.
Commenting on the report, Harris said: “This report highlights the urgent need for a root and branch review of the regulation of online gambling. Stakes and prize limits online would be a major step forward in reducing the harm caused by the sector.
“It is not at all clear why the Gambling Commission is not looking at this as a matter of urgency. It is an abdication of its responsibility as a regulator. There must be consistent and appropriate regulation of all forms of gambling.
“I also urge the Government to urgently review the provision of research, education and treatment in the sector. Gamble Aware are not effectively carrying out this function and it should immediately be brought into a public health setting.”
The review conducted by the GRH APPG also highlighted that the UKGC is currently reviewing other aspects of the online gambling regulation, but noted that the regulator’ has made no mention of what is clearly one of the key issues to address –stake and prizes online.’ The group calls on on online gambling operators to sign their’ Charter for Regulatory Reform,’ to indicate their support and their intention.
As part of its recommendations, the GRH APPG highlighted an’ urgent need’ to ban the use of credit cards on online gambling sites, while additional and enhanced checks on affordability are key to addressing online gambling issues.
Often discussed as part of the review were VIP accounts and inducements given to gamblers, with the cross-party group stressing that such features should be limited.
The report also recommended that operators of online gambling significantly improve their actions to protect vulnerable and at-risk gamblers. Operators should also simplify their easy-to-understand terms and conditions.
Rt Hon Iain Duncan Smith, Vice-Chair of the GRH APPG, added: “It is clear from this inquiry that the powers of the Gambling Commission need to be significantly strengthened. For too long, online gambling operators have exploited vulnerable gamblers to little or no retribution from the regulator.
“I therefore urge the Commission to look into this issue in greater depth. It is outrageous that there are not stake limits online, that gamblers are still able to gamble using credit cards online and that operators are able to continue to offer inducements to the vulnerable without proper sanction.”
GRH APPG also suggested that a ‘smart statutory levy’ of 1% be introduced for research funding and that research commissioning be transferred from GambleAware and the Gambling Commission to independent UK research councils and a public health setting.
The group still has to meet the new Gambling Minister or any representative from the Gambling Commission due to the political context. After its final hearings, the committee has announced that it will release its full report.
Vice-Chair of the GRH APPG, Ronnie Cowan MP concluded: “It appears that the business model of some of these online gambling companies encourages and drives harmful gambling behaviour.
“These operators use various marketing and technological tools to extract as much money as possible from vulnerable gamblers, then use NDAs to cover up wrongdoings. This cannot continue to happen. The next Government and the Gambling Commission need to take radical actions to reduce gambling related harm.”