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Charities lament missed opportunities in white paper

| By Marese O'Hagan
While gambling charities have reacted positively to the publication of the Gambling Act Review white paper, many are calling for further improvements.

The white paper was released earlier today to an eager audience, bringing an end to the first phase of a process that stretches back to 2020.

In an initial address to parliament this morning, Lucy Frazer, secretary of state for the Department of Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) emphasised the focus on player protections included in the white paper. Increased affordability checks and more funds for research, education and treatment (RET) of gambling harms are all on the cards.

Zoë Osmond, CEO of GambleAware, said the white paper is a “step in the right direction” for gambling harm prevention, but added that a lack of regulation on marketing and advertising was a “missed opportunity”.

Marketing regulation included in the review focused on strengthening safer gambling messaging and allowing customers to opt-in to online gambling offers.

“After so many delays to the publication of the white paper, it is now critical that we act with urgency to ensure that the measures outlined are implemented swiftly, especially given that so many of them are subject to further consultation.

“The lack of greater regulation on gambling advertising and marketing is a missed opportunity, particularly in regard to protecting children.”

“Plenty of work to do”

This sentiment was furthered by Charles Richie MBE, co-founder of gambling charity Gambling With Lives, who called for a complete ban on all gambling advertisements.

“We now need to push further for an end to all gambling advertising, we need preventative affordability checks when losses reach £100 a month and we need to do more to make the most dangerous products safer, further reducing stake sizes and play speeds,” he said.

“Only then will we be able to see a real reduction in the deaths caused by gambling.”

Paul Buck, CEO of Epic Risk Management, said that there was still a way to go in fully regulating gambling in the digital age.

“We welcome the release of the Gambling Act Review white paper because whilst it is far from the end of the process due to another likely two or three years of discussions, this now informs where we’re heading to create a safer gambling industry within the UK,” he said.

“We welcome any legislation that looks to prevent gambling-related harm sensibly, but we’re acutely aware that today’s white paper still has plenty of work to do to iron out the details on key areas.”

Slots stake limit

Buck said Epic Risk Management was particularly pleased about the terms set out for slot stakes.

The white paper states that DCMS will implement a stake limit on slots, and will consult on whether this limit will be between £2 and £15 per spin. DCMS will also consult on whether certain stake limits should be put in place for under-25s.

“We particularly welcome the suggestion of differentiation of stakes on online slots for under 25s and provide further safeguards for the youngest members of society once they are legally allowed to bet – it is a step in the right direction,” he said.

Lebby Eyres, CEO of society lottery The Health Lottery also praised the white paper’s attempt at keeping children safe from gambling harm.

“We fully support the government’s goal of preventing children from accessing gambling products,” Eyres said. “As is stated in today’s publication, while the age limit to play the National Lottery was recently increased from 16 to 18, society lotteries were not required to follow suit.

“However, we voluntarily raised the age of play for all The Health Lottery products sold in retail outlets to 18 in September last year as we take responsible play and the protection of children seriously.”