Gambling regulation in the UK has been something of a shifting landscape in recent months, with wave upon wave of new regulations and restrictions being handed down from the authorities.
With the prevailing political winds turning against gambling in recent years, led predominantly by Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party and followed obligingly by the current Conservative government, the freedoms operators and punters across the UK have enjoyed have been significantly curtailed.
Now the position changes again for operators, amid a whole new agenda from the UK Gambling Commission. This week, the regulator published its new framework for tackling the harms experienced by young people and children from gambling, introducing a range of new policy suggestions that could add to the burden on the shoulders of legitimate operators.
Few would deny that it is important to prevent those under legal gambling age from gambling, or from being exposed to gambling advertisements. In this respect, the Gambling Commission’s aims will be welcomed by the broader industry, who are in general keen to prevent those lawfully excluded from gambling from gaining access to gambling services.
However, with a number of measures already in place, through a combination of legislation and the proactive approach of the gambling industry, there is some doubt as to whether these new measures are needed, and whether this represents the most pressing next step for the regulators in the gambling sector.
The latest framework was published with the help of Ipsos Mori, and set out a range of possible ways in which young people can be affected by gambling.
Programme Director for Safer Gambling at the Gambling Commission, Helen Rhodes, said the framework chimes with what is currently a high priority for the regulators.
“Gaining a better understanding of the impact of gambling on children and young people is a key priority for the Commission. Childhood and adolescence is a key stage of development and any harms experienced at this stage in life can be detrimental to the future development, confidence and potential of young people.”
In particular, the report focuses on the financial harms suffered by children and young people when an adult develops problematic gambling behaviour, including the reduction in living standards this can cause in some cases.
The framework also looked at the impact problem gambling can have on relationships and health, both physical and mental, in the most severe cases.
There is no suggestion as yet of formalised legislation, but the paper was billed as creating a talking point for policymakers and other stakeholders towards taking further, more decisive action.
“This initial framework is designed to help guide and focus research and action to reduce gambling harms in children and young people. We encourage other researchers to build further evidence to develop the framework, so together we can move faster and go further to reduce gambling harms.”
Quite what this action would involve is unclear, but few would doubt this will reflect in a larger regulatory burden on the gambling sector. While no one in the gambling sector wants to encourage problematic gambling behaviour, nor the ill-effects this can have on families, some commentators have suggested this could ultimately lead to even more regulation.
While clarification on the law from regulators is always welcome, there is a danger that this, the latest in a near-weekly series of new measures launched by the regulator, could add up over time to an unmanageable burden for the industry if left to continue unchecked.