Balancing Act Ahead for the Government

Balancing Act Ahead for the Government

It’s the time of year when we think about what bets to place in the next 12 months. However, 2022 could be a year when we get an indication of the changes that may happen in the way we bet. A White Paper is on the way and it’s not a betting slip.

The government have been holding a review into the 2005 Gambling Act. A White Paper is due to be published in the not-too-distant future and this will give an indication of what lies ahead. Michael Dugher is the Chief Executive of the Betting and Gaming Council (BGC). He’s just had a comment article published in the Telegraph and it makes for interesting reading.

One message he puts across relates to the political implications of what the government have planned. He writes about how people are already “resentful of COVID mission creep” with many feeling it sees the government interfering in their personal freedoms. Doing the same for how they gamble may well go down like a Tory in the opinion polls.

Mr Dugher writes that “many voters see betting, and the sports which rely on revenues from betting, as part of their culture.” With Labour riding high in the polls at present, upsetting the voters even more isn’t a great idea.

That’s especially the case when your healthy majority is dependent on the “Red Wall’ seats won by the Tories in the midlands and Northern England. It wouldn’t take a great deal to see many of those seats return to Labour at the next General Election.

Mr Dugher believes that working class voters in those constituencies “regard restrictions on betting as a culture war waged by high-handed politicians who don’t approve of how they spend their time and money.” Surely planned changes have the main task of helping those who are in danger of becoming addicted to gambling.

A recent survey by Racing TV did show that there would be disapproval of strengthened gambling restrictions. That was the case when it came to checks on the bank accounts of those considered vulnerable.

The chief executive is particularly concerned over the findings regarding the black market. 85% of respondents believe there’s a danger that upset gamblers could just head to the unregulated black market. That would hit the regulated gambling companies and make betting a lot less safe for gamblers.

Dugher therefore believes the government has a tough job on their hands. “A balancing act” needs to be carried out between “protections for the vulnerable and those at risk” but not “interfering in the enjoyment of responsible gamblers.”

Another key aim of the review must be more protection of children and young people. The BGC Chief Executive is concerned about private bets between those in the 11-16 age group. Then there’s the attraction of slot games, scratchcards and card games. They aren’t in the BGC remit and even though the number of young people gambling has fallen, Dugher believes they are “still far too high.”

Also important in his view is that the review has an evidence-led approach as has been promised in the past. When he told some politicians that around 30 million people (almost half the population) gamble in some form or another, they were surprised. They must remember that those gamblers are also voters, many in marginal seats. Any changes must have evidence to back up the reason for their introduction.