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Comments on the Gambling Commission from Lord David Lipsey

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Reading Time: 4 minutes

 

Gambling Commission Consultation

Memorandum from Lord David Lipsey (pictured), Chair for Premier Greyhound Racing

“Much public criticism has been levied at the Gambling Commission’s proposals on affordability; including by me. However, most of this concentrates on the possible effects of the proposals on horse racing.

“Practically nothing has been said about the corresponding effects on greyhound racing. Greyhound racing remains Britain’s fifth largest spectator sport, so this is a strange omission.

“By way of background, greyhound racing gets helpful support from a levy on bookmakers. This levy, unlike the horseracing levy, is voluntary. However, all but a few minnows amongst bookmaking pay it. It is collected by a body called the British Greyhound Racing Fund (BGRF), chaired by Joe Scanlon, an experienced bookmaker. Its board comprises a mix of bookmakers and representatives of the sport. They, in turn, allocate the funds they collect as they see fit to greyhound racing.

“The BGRF is focussed on something of great importance: the welfare of racing and retired greyhounds.

“It is channelled through the sport’s national governing body, the Greyhound Board of Great Britain (GBGB). The GBGB has welfare as its predominant objective. Its document, A Good Life for Every Greyhound is the sport’s guiding light on welfare. Welfare used to be a much lower priority for the BGRF. Much of its money went, for example, on equipment for tracks; a straight business subsidy.

“However, the percentage devoted to welfare has steadily increased. Greyhound welfare now comprises some £3.9 million (51.4%) of the BGRF’s expenditure. A further 19% goes to regulation such as kennel inspection, which is also important for the dogs’ welfare.

“As a direct result of the BGRF’s increased emphasis on welfare, there have been huge improvements in the outcome for greyhounds. When I chaired the then-British Greyhound Racing Board in the 2000s. fewer than one in six greyhounds were rehomed after racing. Many were euthanised. Today on the latest GBGB figures a staggering 95% of dogs are rehomed after racing. Meanwhile, there has been a huge investment in improving track surfaces.

“However, the voluntary levy has not been buoyant. In the latest available year, 2022/23, it raised £7.6 million in levy. In money terms this compares with £8 million a decade ago. But in real terms it has fallen from nearly £11 million in 2012/13 to £8.2 million in July of 2023.

“There was a one-off hike in 2019/20 to £8.8 million following an extension of the levy to overseas bets on greyhounds. I was responsible in negotiating this at the request of the then-Sports Minister, Tracey Crouch. However, it has since declined. The GBGB has been talking to various bookmakers about increasing the levy. However, the near universal response has been for the bookmakers to say ‘we will pay more if all the other bookmakers do’. The result has been stasis.

“Premier Greyhound Racing has no independent evidence on the impact of the proposed crackdown on affordability proposed by the Gambling Commission. However, greyhound racing, like horse racing, has some heavy hitter punters who would plausibly be put off betting on greyhounds if they were subject to onerous affordability checks.

“I can offer here my own experience. £5/£10 is my normal stake. However, as a ‘politically exposed person’, I was subjected to rigorous checks by my bookmaker, responding as they were to Gambling Commission pressure. It took an exchange of 32 e-mails before I was finally allowed to keep my account.

“Of course, I, like other parliamentarians, have received direct assurances from ministers that affordability checks will be automatic and seamless. However, the consultation paper itself makes clear that this is not the intention of the Gambling Commission. It admits that 2/3% of punters may have intrusive affordability checks carried out.

“These will almost by definition be the big punters. Big punters are a mix of those with gambling problems and those who just enjoy a good bet. Greyhound racing like horseracing has done everything it can to encourage safer betting. But if the Gambling Commission insists on probing big punters, they will simply disappear. Some will go to the ‘black market’. Some will seek their kicks elsewhere.

“The loss of greyhound punters will directly impact the yield of the voluntary levy. But equally important, if the bookmakers are hard hit by the new affordability rules (and they all think they will be) that will be a huge blow to their willingness to contribute to the voluntary levy.

“So far bookmakers have stuck with the levy. They have done so partly because they are sentient human beings, many with a huge affection for this most loveable breed of animal. But they do so also because they regard the levy as a price they must pay for the ‘social licence’ for greyhound racing to continue. The RSPCA, Dogs Trust and Blue Cross are already agitating for a ban on the sport. If the bookmakers are under financial pressure because of the impact of affordability checks, they are not likely to be in a mood to up their contributions in line with the sport’s needs.

“It would be horrifying if the progress of the last couple of decades was undone. Some trainers might dispose of dogs in unacceptable ways. Track maintenance might be neglected. Vets might no longer be in attendance at some tracks. Yet if the money to pay for welfare is not forthcoming due to the impact on bookmakers of the new affordability requirements all these are possible. GBGB would resist but it might be powerless to insist.”

Compliance Updates

Breaking News: New £2 maximum stake for under 25s playing online slots in the UK

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Breaking News: New £2 maximum stake for under 25s playing online slots in the UK
Reading Time: 3 minutes

 

  • Stake limits for online slot games introduced for the first time in September in landmark moment for regulation of online gambling
  • Maximum £2 stake for 18 to 24-year-olds for online slot games to be introduced
  • £5 limit for adults aged 25 and over brings stakes in-line with casinos

Easily accessible online slot games are one of the most addictive forms of gambling, and can be associated with large losses, long sessions, and binge play. Unlike land-based gaming machines, such as in casinos, they have no statutory stake limits.

To counter the increased risk of significant harm and life-changing losses from online slot games, the Government will introduce a £5 stake limit for adults aged 25 and over.

Responding to evidence, a lower level stake limit for young adults aged 18-24 years old will be set at £2 per spin. This age group has the highest average problem gambling score of any group, as well as lower disposable income, ongoing neurological development impacting risk perception and common life stage factors like managing money for the first time. The evidence also points to a stronger link between gambling related harm and suicide among young adults.

The decision follows a 10-week consultation period in which the majority of respondents agreed with the gambling white paper proposal to introduce statutory limits for online slot games to help reduce the risk of gambling harm. Consultation responses included views from industry, academics, treatment providers and individuals.

Gambling Minister Stuart Andrew said: “Although millions of people gamble safely every single day, the evidence shows that there is a significantly higher problem gambling rate for online slot games.

We also know that young adults can be more vulnerable when it comes to gambling related harms, which is why we committed to addressing both of these issues in our white paper.

The growing popularity of online gambling is clear to see, so this announcement will level the playing field with the land-based sector and is the next step in a host of measures being introduced this year that will protect people from gambling harms.”

Evidence from the Office for Health Improvement and Disparities shows that young adults can be particularly vulnerable to gambling related harm, with under 25s having the highest average problem gambling score of any age group.

NHS survey figures also show that there is a problem gambling rate of 8.7 per cent for online gambling on slots, casino or bingo games, one of the highest rates across gambling activities.

CEO of GambleAware Zoë Osmond said: “We welcome the Government’s announcement to introduce lower online stake limits for under 25s as an important mechanism to protect young people. Our research shows a concerning trend with this age group experiencing an increase in harm arising from gambling and online slots are very high-risk products.

As we continue our work to tackle this growing public health issue, we will collaborate with the Government and others across the gambling harms sector to ensure there are no missed opportunities when it comes to the introduction of robust preventative measures, including new regulations such as these.”

The limits will come into force in September this year, following secondary legislation. There will be a six week transition period for operators to become compliant with the general £5 stake limit rules, followed by a further six weeks for the development of any necessary technical solutions to ensure operators are fully compliant with the lower stake limit of £2 for young adults aged 18-24.

Although most people gamble without issue, the restrictions introduced today are just some of the proposals set out in the Government’s white paper to modernise the gambling sector and make it fit for the digital age.

This includes the introduction of a statutory levy for research, prevention and treatment, as well as financial risk checks designed to prevent catastrophic, life-changing losses. The Gambling Commission and the Government continue to listen to concerns from campaigners, the wider public, and both the gambling and horse racing industries as part of the consultation process on these checks. The Gambling Commission continues to refine its approach on the design to achieve the right balance between protections and freedoms.

As well as introducing measures to protect people from gambling related harm, the white paper package contains proposals that will support the land-based gambling industry to thrive. The industry supports thousands of jobs across the country and the Government has been clear it does not want to harm its success.

Responses to the wider white paper measures will be published soon.

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Compliance Updates

UK trade association Bacta meet with Labour Party candidates ahead of General Election

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Bacta’s preparations for the next UK General Election continue at a pace with George McGregor Executive Director – Government Relations, Regulatory Affairs and Communications, recently attending a meeting with North West England Labour Party candidates including Patrick Hurley (Southport), Michelle Scrogham (Barrow & Furness), and Chris Webb (Blackpool South).

 The meeting which was part of a wider Tourism Alliance programme covered a broad range of tourism related issues including support for the seaside sector, the contribution made by the amusements industry to seaside economies and the need to increase stake and prize levels on gaming machines.

Reflecting on the initiative George McGregor said: “We know there will be a General Election this year and it is a really opportune time to engage with prospective parliamentary candidates who are in campaigning mode.

“The Labour candidates that I met with are all likely to be elected MPs according to current opinion polls. The meeting was a great opportunity to forge links ahead of the General Election, outline what our industry contributes to economies throughout the country and explain the unique set of challenges that it faces not least its inability to increase prices due to stake and prize regulations.

Bacta President John Bollom added: “The trade association has been preparing for a General Election for some time and the recent meeting with prospective Labour MPs follows the EAG attendance of Labour Peer Lord McNicol of West Kilbride who became the first politician to open an edition of EAG/ATEI since Tim Sainsbury MP in 1994.

“Prior to that November’s Bacta Convention featured the Minister for Gambling The Rt Hon Stuart Andrew MP who made a key note speech as well as Phillip Davies the Conservative MP for Shipley.”

He continued: “Political engagement is a key part of the comprehensive package of services we provide Bacta members and I believe that thanks to the endeavours of the trade association as well as those of member organisations who have opened their doors to their constituency MPs that the industry’s political stock has rarely been higher.”

 

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Compliance Updates

Cyprus National Betting Authority Launches National Self-Exclusion Platform

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The Cyprus National Betting Authority during a press conference on February 20, 2024, announced the launch of the National Self-Exclusion Platform (NSEP). This strategic initiative is part of the Authority’s commitment of safeguarding players and the public, as outlined in its Safer Gambling Strategy 2022-25.

The NSEP facilitates players to control their betting activities and opt for self-exclusion, either temporarily or indefinitely, from all online bookmakers who are licensed in the Republic of Cyprus. The player acknowledges that their betting activity has brought gambling related harm on their life, hence, they may use the self-exclusion tool for a more effective control of their betting activity. During the self-exclusion period, the player has access to their current account only for the purpose of withdrawing their deposits and cannot create a new account in a licenced bookmaker’s website.

Registration on the platform is free, simple and straightforward, enabling the player to set their self-exclusion across all betting service providers by registering at https://www.exclusion.cy/. Specifically, players have the flexibility to choose between temporary self-exclusion, long period self-exclusion or for an indefinite time.

During the press conference, Ms. Ioanna Fiakkou, President of the NBA, expressed her satisfaction with the platform’s launch, underscoring its significance as “a robust tool for every player, designed to promote safer betting behaviour and safeguarding vulnerable groups of people.”

“The development of the National Self-Exclusion Platform underscores the NBA’s dedication to player protection and the establishment of a sustainable and fair betting sector. The platform at this point offers self-exclusion from online betting service providers, but its operation is dynamic and poised to integrate additional functionalities. Thus, we extend a public invitation to all stakeholders to join our efforts for safeguarding society and include specific groups such as athletes in the platform’s operations, in collaboration with relevant federations and governmental bodies, to join the platform. Through this collaborative effort, we aim to fortify the fight against match-fixing and enhance transparency in sports, aligning with key objectives outlined in the Authority’s strategic framework. We are particularly satisfied to witness the realization of another significant milestone, as we advance towards achieving the goals set forth in the Safer Gambling Strategy, reinforcing protective measures for the public and fostering the industry’s sustainability in the right direction,” Ms. Fiakkou said.

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