Gambling Industry Warned that Change is Coming

The long-awaited white paper on the future of the UK gambling industry is due in the coming weeks. While the wait continues, a near two-hour debate was held in the House of Commons on Wednesday March 30. It wasn’t to be easy listening for those in the gambling industry.

The debate was led by Labour MP Carolyn Harris, the chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Gambling Related Harm.

In a debate in the House of Commons, Carolyn Harris said the industry had not offered viable alternatives to a “broken state of affairs”. The MP was in an accusing mood when talking about how the gambling industry has reacted to possible changes in the law.

In her opinion, the industry doesn’t want to take part in an evidence-led debate. Nor are they offering any viable alternatives to fix what she believes is a “broken” system. The MP feels the gambling industry are perfectly happy with the current legislation (which she describes as “outdated”), “weak sanctions and limited scope.”

Harris criticised the industry for their failure to have “proper dialogue” with reformers. The MP claimed that they had “resorted to playground name-calling” and labelling those seeking to make changes as “prohibitionists.”

Any claim that the industry had that the problems being discussed are historical was discounted by Harris. Recent fines imposed by the Gambling Commission proved that. The MP claimed that gambling companies are “fear-mongering” when talking about possible job losses and a fall in the amount of tax paid to the government if there is increased regulation.

To further that point, the MP recalled how there had been such claims made when two years ago a cap was placed on fixed-odds betting terminals. Then there had been warnings that half of the 9,000 betting shops would close. Instead, there are still 8,000 open and Harris stressed the fact that many are “still clustered in some of our most deprived communities.”

One area discussed in the debate is the call for a £100 affordability check. Harris believes this is a “sensible, proportionate and more importantly, evidence-based position.” The figure of £100 is in her opinion low enough to allow most gamblers to avoid having to undergo such checks.

Former Conservative leader Iain Duncan Smith agrees that now is the time to make changes. He said that the time is “overdue” for change. The gambling industry must recognise that “the time is up” and that change is inevitable. He called on other MPs not to “continue to defend” the “bad practices” of the gambling industry.