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House of Lords committee opens inquiry into gambling harm

Out-Law News | 09 Jul 2019 | 8:32 am | 2 min. read

A new inquiry focused on gambling-related harm and protections for consumers has been opened by a group of UK law makers.

The House of Lords Select Committee on the Social and Economic Impact of the Gambling Industry said it plans to examine issues including the current state of the industry, the lack of data on the extent of problems with gambling, developments in gambling habits such as online gambling, and the industry’s contribution towards research, education and treatment of problem gamblers.

It has asked for views (5 page / 145KB PDF) from “anyone with experience of the issues” to contribute evidence to the inquiry.

Gambling law expert Audrey Ferrie of Pinsent Masons, the law firm behind Out-Law, said the call for evidence followed extensive media and social commentary on the issue.

“The remit of the Select Committee is wide-ranging and covers many of the themes and issues discussed in the press, raised by politicians such as Labour’s Tom Watson and, of course, the Gambling Commission – advertising, links to sport, gambling by young people and children and a mandatory levy. Whether or not the call for evidence results in legislative change, this is another example of the scrutiny, very close scrutiny, under which the gambling industry is operating,” Ferrie said.

Fellow gambling law expert Christopher Rees-Gay of Pinsent Masons said the committee’s call for evidence was very broad. 

“As has previously been the case, it will be very interesting to note what actual evidence is provided to respond to the questions posed, rather than subjective views of individuals,” Rees-Gay said.

“The gambling industry has been under heavy scrutiny recently, with many operators being subject to enforcement action by the Gambling Commission. Will the finalised report be used as further evidence with which to attack the industry, or will it be a meaningless exercise similar to the Licensing Act 2003 (Alcohol) report, that has led to only a minor number of changes?  Only time will tell,” Rees-Gay said.

Questions asked by the Lords committee focus on how effective the Gambling Act 2005 has been in achieving its aims of preventing gambling from being a crime or disorder, ensuring that gambling is conducted in a fair and open way, and protecting children and other vulnerable person from being harmed or exploited by gambling. The committee is seeking views on whether the legislation should be updated to reflect changes in technology, and the latest knowledge on gambling-related harm, which have developed since the act was introduced.

The inquiry will ask whether gambling operators should be subject to a legal duty of care for its customers, and whether the voluntary levy which operators are asked to pay by the Gambling Commission is effective.

Views on how the regulation of gambling advertising should be managed, and about the risks associated with the “increasingly close relationships” between betting operators and sports leagues, broadcasters and clubs are also being sought.

The impact of technology such as social media on gambling by children, and what should be done to educate the public about gambling, are other topics that the inquiry will address.

Committee chair Lord Grade of Yarmouth said: “We know that the effects of gambling on individuals and families can be devastating. This committee seeks further to understand the issues, in an area where concrete evidence is lacking, and to explore options for improvement.”

The deadline for the submission of evidence is 6 September 2019.