Casinos allowed to advertise; Members only rule scrapped; Bingo halls will offer rollover prizes; Online gambling allowed from UK bases; Children barred from slot machines with a stake over 10p …
Consultation on the Gambling Review Report has shown that there is broad support for the Review Body’s reform package. The main areas of contention were the impact of the proposed restrictions on gaming machines; those recommendations that would reduce National Lottery sales; and the consequences of transferring premises licensing responsibility to local authorities.
The Government endorses the principles set out in the Report as the key objectives of gambling law and regulation:
- gambling should be crime-free, honest and conducted in accordance with regulation;
- players should know what to expect and be confident that they will get it and not be exploited;
- there should be adequate protection for children and vulnerable persons.
A new legislative framework
All gambling legislation (except that governing the National Lottery Act, which is subject to a separate review) will be consolidated into a single, simple to understand and flexible Act of Parliament.
Modern regulation for a modern industry
There will be a single statutory regulator – the Gambling Commission – with responsibility for licensing and regulating gambling operators and their staff. The Commission will operate controls on entry to the industry, monitor compliance and enforce licensing provisions.
Local authorities will be responsible for licensing gambling premises, subject to the establishment of clear statutory criteria against which individual decisions will be taken.
There will be a statutory right of appeal against the decisions of both the Gambling Commission and local authorities.
Although the overall cost of regulation will increase, unit costs of licences are not expected to rise significantly, and the net annual benefit to the gambling industry is expected to be in the region of £500 million (US$713,317,531).
Benefits for consumers and Online Casino Singapore business
Regulation will be confined to what is necessary to keep crime out, protect the vulnerable, and ensure that gambling products are fair to the consumer.
Unnecessary barriers to customer access and new entrants to the industry will be removed. Advertising restrictions will be relaxed, as will those on the use of credit cards, apart from in gaming machines. Gambling debts will be enforceable in law. The rule allowing casinos to be established only in designated parts of Great Britain will be abolished, as will the requirement that they and some other kinds of gambling premises must be operated as members’ clubs and may be opened only if existing premises do not meet unstimulated demand.
The Government will establish a new regulatory framework for gaming machines in order to create an environment in which there is more choice for adult gamblers and new opportunities for business but which also provides better protection for children and vulnerable adults.
Controls on casinos will be relaxed to enable operators to provide a broader and more accessible leisure experience for their customers. They will be able to offer a variety of gambling products, including betting, bingo and linked slot machines with unlimited stakes and prizes, as well as more traditional table games.
A variety of money controls on bingo games will be removed, and rollovers will be allowed.
Licensed betting offices will be able to offer a wider choice of food and drinks (but not alcohol), and off-course betting into greyhound track totes will be permitted.
Current limits on prizes and proceeds for society lotteries will be doubled, and the limits on stakes abolished. Commercial lotteries will continue to be prohibited.
There will be further deregulation of pool competitions, including provision for unlimited rollovers.
The Government will legalise the provision of the full range of on-line gambling services by operators based in the UK, including on-line gaming. A kitemark or similar mechanism will be introduced to enable prospective customers to distinguish between those sites that are licensed and regulated by the Gambling Commission and those that are not.
On-line operators will need to meet the same entry standards as those in other gambling sectors, and their operations will be subject to approval and monitoring by the Commission to ensure compliance with regulations. Effective safeguards will be required to prevent children using on-line gambling sites. There will be a separate review of prize and promotional competitions.
The National Lottery
The Government has rejected the Review Body’s recommendation that side betting should be permitted on the National Lottery results, and as already indicated intends to double, rather than abolish, the limits on prizes and proceeds in society lotteries. The Government does not, however, considers that the risks to the National Lottery from other changes recommended by the Review Body justify their rejection on these grounds.
The scope for bringing the National Lottery Commission’s regulatory responsibilities into the proposed Gambling Commission will be considered in the context of the separate review of National Lottery licensing and regulation.
Keeping crime out
The Government is committed to ensuring that crime is kept out of gambling:
- a fit and proper test will be applied to all those seeking to take out an operating or personal licence;
- the Gambling Commission will be able to access and share information, via statutory gateways, with other enforcement agencies;
- it will have access to criminal records and enhanced powers of entry, seizure and search;
- the Commission will also investigate and bring proceedings in connection with illegal gambling.;
- measures will be put in place to prevent gambling from being used for money laundering; and
- the Commission will work with industry representatives and sporting regulators to combat corruption and criminal activity.
Dealing with the downside
The gambling industry will be required to operate to the highest standards of social responsibility. The Commission will issue formal codes of practice in relation to social responsibility, which will become part of the conditions of licences to operate. The Commission will be responsible for ensuring compliance with its codes, and more broadly for monitoring the social impact of the increased access to gambling products and services which new legislation will bring.
The current minimum age limits for access to gambling products will be maintained. A range of measures will be put in place to improve the level of protection for children. There will be more and better research into the risks presented by gaming machines. Age controls will be enforced more rigorously by both the Commission and local authorities. There will be greater emphasis on education and awareness programmes and specific provisions in advertising codes of practice to prevent children being targeted. The new regulatory regime for machines will also make it illegal for children to play gaming machines in any circumstances, while allowing them to use machines which are genuinely for amusement with low prizes.
The Government fully endorses the Review Body’s wish to see a long-term programme of research into the causes of problem gambling and into effective methods of prevention and treatment intervention.
The Government agrees that NHS mental health services should be prepared to offer assessment and treatment to those with severe gambling problems.
The Government welcomes the establishment by the gambling industry of an independent gambling trust. The Government will, as a precaution, establish a reserve statutory power to secure funding for the trust via the licence fees already paid by all gambling businesses.
Joining up the policy
The proposed reform of gambling law has implications for a number of other public policy areas, and we will ensure that all the appropriate links are made as detailed policy and legislative proposals are developed.
Implementing the changes
The key changes will require primary legislation, and the Government will bring a Bill before Parliament as soon as time permits. In the meantime we will introduce a number of interim changes which will provide useful gains in terms of deregulation and consumer choice, but which will not disturb the overall balance of regulation.