MP proposes legislation to review mandatory levy on gambling sector

Out-Law News | 30 Apr 2019 | 10:54 am |

The UK parliament took a step towards the establishment of a mandatory levy on gambling firms’ revenues when it supported the introduction of a bill put forward by a Conservative MP to review the case for a levy on the gross revenues of gambling firms.

Richard Graham said the review should make recommendations on the possible uses of revenue from such a levy in connection with research on gambling addiction and protections for children and other vulnerable people at risk of being harmed by gambling.

The bill was introduced under the ‘10-minute’ rule, which allows backbench MPs to propose legislation in a 10-minute speech. If the House of Commons supports the proposal, the bill goes forward for deeper consideration in a second reading.

The rules prevented Graham from asking the government directly to introduce a levy, but he said government and parliament, as well as the gambling authorities, needed to do more to protect those vulnerable to gambling addiction. He said research into the potential benefits of a levy would provide better statistics on the number of people affected by gambling addiction, particularly online.

“I believe that a review of the mandatory levy, to fund vital research, protection strategies, changes to policies on credit and access to money that have led in some cases to tragic deaths, and new policies, clinics and rehabilitation centres to help cure those addicted, would make a real difference,” Graham said when introducing his bill.

Gambling law expert Christopher Rees-Gay of Pinsent Masons, the law firm behind Out-Law.com, said the bill was “very timely”.

“Although only currently having had its first reading, the bill’s focus, if successful, could be far reaching for the industry. The ramifications for the sector could be mandatory payments to the levy, further changes in gambling advertising, use of software in terms of self-exclusion and preventing children from gambling - all being issues currently pushed hard by the Gambling Commission at this time,” Rees-Gay said.

“Again, it is further confirmation that gambling operators are in the spotlight and should be ensuring that they are taking customer protection very seriously,” Rees-Gay said.

Speaking at an event to launch a national strategy to reduce gambling harms the day after Graham’s bill was introduced, Gambling Commission chair William Moyes said the body’s ability to direct funds to research was “increasingly dependent on operators breaching their licences and then agreeing settlements”. Moyes said a levy would help secure appropriate levels of funding as well as providing a certainty to funding streams.

Earlier this year the Gambling Commission updated its age verification requirements for online gambling in a continuation of a push to protect vulnerable consumers from gambling-related harm.