Thank you for contacting me about online gambling.
I recognise that gambling is for many people an enjoyable pastime, but equally that for many people it can become a serious problem.
Operators providing gambling facilities to customers in Great Britain must be licensed by the Gambling Commission and comply with the conditions of their operating licences. In recent years, the Gambling Commission has also introduced a number of licence conditions specifically in relation to online gambling to ensure the protection of children and vulnerable people.
I understand Public Health England’s evidence review of gambling-related harms did not find any review-level evidence that exposure to advertising is a risk factor for harmful gambling. However, I am reassured that my ministerial colleagues are aware that gambling advertising can have a disproportionate impact on some groups, such as those who are already experiencing problems with gambling, and there are aspects of advertising which can appeal to children. While rules are already in place to prevent advertising from causing harm to children and vulnerable people, the Committees of Advertising has recently implemented strengthened protections for adults who are vulnerable to gambling harm.
I am delighted that the Government recognises that it is increasingly apparent that the Gambling Act 2005 is an analogue law in a digital age. The review of the Gambling Act 2005 was launched in December 2020 with the publication of a wide-ranging Call for Evidence. I understand that the Government aims to publish a White Paper setting out any conclusions and consulting on next steps in the coming months.
Like you, I am very concerned at how many cases we hear of operators failing to meet their duties to protect people. For example, the Gambling Commission recently levied a huge fine against an online gambling company for breaches of their responsibilities to prevent harmful gambling and investigate their customers’ source of funds. - in that particular case, the gambling firm was fined £9.4 million by the Gambling Commission.
I understand that the Gambling Commission is looking at the role technology and data can play in preventing harm from arising and I will follow developments closely.
Furthermore, the Gambling Commission will soon publish its enhanced requirements for customer interaction, thereby making sure gambling operators are doing proper checks, and the Government is looking at this in their review too.