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BGC warns against mandatory spending limits over black market risk

| By Robert Fletcher
The Betting and Gaming Council (BGC) has issued a warning about introducing mandatory spending limits for players in Great Britain after a new survey found 65% of players said some bettors may turn to unlicensed sites after reaching their set limit.

The YouGov survey, based on the responses of focus groups across seven English cities, found almost two thirds of participants believe there is a substantial risk that setting limits on the amount of money spent on betting would drive more people to unregulated operators.

The study also found that more than half of punters thought the government should not set limits on how much people can bet, with this having been mooted as one of the potential new rules being considered under the ongoing review of the Gambling Act 2005.

“The issue is that you’re going to push people who don’t even have a problem onto these websites,” a voter in Blackpool said. “Then they’re betting on sites that don’t have the option to do limits or time outs or whatever, and you’re probably going to create a whole new wave of problem gamblers totally unnecessarily.”

The British government is expected to lay out plans for a review of current regulations in a white paper that is due to be published this summer.

Last month, the BGC also stated its opposition to affordability checks, which it said would “undermine the customer experience” and also force players to black market sites.

However, while the BGC said there was clear opposition to a blanket approach to spending limits, which would apply to all players, there was support for a method where mandatory limits could be set for consumers showing signs of problem gambling.

“Where companies know and can see someone is developing a problem then obviously that should be the focus,” a participant in Wakefield said. “But it shouldn’t mean we all have to get regulated. (Football) clubs get told who they can sponsor with and we get told what we should spend money on. That’s ridiculous and too far to solve what is essentially a small problem really.”

The BGC said it does back certain spending checks, but that these must be non-instructive and carefully targeted at vulnerable customers and those at risk. Last year, the BGC also called for an ombudsman to strengthen consumer redress. 

“At the BGC we support the government’s review of gambling as an important opportunity to further raise standards, building on the changes introduced in recent times and the welcome reductions in problem gambling rates,” BGC chief executive Michael Dugher said.

“But ministers need to act in a way that is carefully targeted at problem gamblers and those at risk, not the overwhelming majority of the 22.5 million Brits who enjoy having a bet each month.

Dugher added that imposing unpopular rules on the industry may play into concerns that politicians are out of touch.

“People think politicians live on a different planet as it is,” he said. “Telling them what they can and cannot do with their own time and their own money isn’t going to help fix that perception.

“Ministers should also stop being so complacent about the dangers of the unsafe, unregulated black market online. It’s real and it’s growing, and it is targeting vulnerable people and problem gamblers. This is not an argument against change. It’s an argument for getting changes right. 

“Ministers need to be careful and smart – and they need to be wary about overreaching themselves and interfering unnecessarily in people’s lives.”

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