The UK government plans to raise the minimum age for playing the national lottery to 18 from 16. This is scheduled to take effect starting in October 2021. On the other hand, online sales for persons 17 will years and below will end as early as April 2021. This is only part of the crackdown to be launched in the gambling sector. The crackdown will also see other measures such as limited advertising, limits on online stakes, and being banned from sponsoring football Jerseys.
Factors Motivating The Ban
The government feels that the current law established in 2005 is outdated in the thriving digital age.
Oliver Dowden, culture secretary, says that the gambling industry has evolved at a ‘breakneck speed’ since the last law was established and, therefore, a pressing need for a review to minimize issues related to ‘problem gambling’ to safeguard the vulnerable population from opportunistic gambling operators.
The sports minister Nigel Huddleston, in his statement, echoed the body’s commitment to safeguarding the young population from gambling risks, therefore the push to raise the legal age requirement for participation in National Lottery.
He further stated that the gambling industry is a continuously evolving field and is now transitioning to online gaming. He reported that their efforts would ensure that the low-risk traditional National Lottery would retain its protective measures even in online spheres.
The gambling commission is expected to set out new rules in October 2021 to ensure a safer game design for online slots and withdrawal winnings after it called out for evidence around how gambling operators can identify and intervene when people are at the harm of risk.
Comparing UK’s Gambling Regulations To Other European Countries
Other territories in Europe have been progressive in enabling a safe and modern gaming environment. Germany is pushing for legislation that will legalize online casinos and previously banned online poker. This is projected to take place by the start of July 2021. Online slot games and sports betting will also be affected by the new legislation with a €1 limit for every spin on online slots, and sports betting markets will be limited to who scores next and the match’s final results.
In other European countries like Spain, online betting regulations are more flexible, and according to the 2011 Spanish Gambling Act, different regions have the power to determine their own gambling regulations.
France is also a friendly gambling landscape, with the only exception being online casino games. Online sportsbooks and race betting are allowed, but the law is yet to clear online casino games such as online poker. The flexible gambling laws in France were pushed for by the EU back in 2010, leading to the gambling act 2010-476, which created the ARJEL body, which regulates online gambling. French source JeuxdCasino explains England’s negative attitude towards gambling by reviewing conservatives’ role in the recent push.
Response from UK Gambling Regulators
Despite the new raised age limit being welcomed, the Lords select committee on the gambling industry was disappointed that the rule would get into action in October.
“I welcome the decision to raise the minimum age for buying national lottery products to 18, but cannot understand why the regulations have to wait until October 2021 before coming into force,” said Lord Grade, the chair of the committee.
He also added that the government’s indecision to regulate loot boxes even with ‘overwhelming’ evidence was not okay. He felt that the regulations ‘’could have been made months ago.’’
Lord Grade stated that the ’minor changes’ to the gambling advertisements have had little effect and urged the government to consider tighter regulations.
“The Select Committee recommended several changes which could make an immediate difference. The Minister has the power to give effect to them now. Instead, the government is including this in its Review of the Gambling Act, and calling for yet more evidence.”
“The government must keep tight control of the timetable of its review, and now allow it to be used as a mechanism for yet again deferring any significant changes,” he said.
The communications manager at CARE, James Mildred, said that he was both ‘surprised’ and ‘delighted’ by the government’s move.
“I’ll tell you why I’m surprised because last month there were some suggestions that the government was going to delay this review until next year. They made a manifesto promise that they would review the 2005 gambling act, and it urgently needs to be reviewed; it’s very out of date,” he said.
He added that the government announcement about the review in 2021 was ‘tremendous.’
Mildred also stated that the review was the first step towards changing the law and protecting children and vulnerable adults from gambling-related problems. However, he felt that the challenge would be ensuring the review would lead to genuine change.
The shadow sports minister, Alison McGovern, welcomed the decision but expressed his disappointments for the government taking too long.
The Gambling Health Alliance (GHA), a group made of 50 charities and academics, has also called for a review to bring out the damage gambling has on public health. Duncan Stephenson, the public has been at the mercy of gambling industries for the past 15 years, which has resulted in the industry taking advantage of the ‘’sluggish and inadequate’’ regulation.
“We have seen the devastating effects of this on lives lost and ruined, with gambling companies shamelessly exploiting the young and vulnerable, making obscene amounts of money at the expense of some of our most deprived communities,” he said.
Some regulators and trade bodies, however, are already falling on themselves and taking action.
For instance, in March, Betway, which is an online betting firm, had to pay a penalty of €11.6M after it failed on its customer protection and money laundering checks.
There is a need for a controlled gambling environment regulated by oversight bodies, but their actions should not impede modern gambling development, especially in online spaces.