MPs have described the Gambling Commission as “not fit for purpose” and demanded a £2 stake limit to be imposed on some online casino games.
The Gambling Related Harm All-Party Parliamentary Group (GRH APPG) cast scorn on the regulator as it published its interim report on the UK online gambling sector following a six-month enquiry.
The £2 limit would be placed on slot-machine style games, in line with the FOBT limit that was imposed earlier this year.
The APPG said there is now a disparity in controls on stake and deposit limits between online and offline games, and said it is indefensible because the government’s FOBT change means it has accepted the principle that harm can be reduced by reducing stake levels.
The report further takes aim at the Gambling Commission for failing to consider changes to rules on online stake and prizes despite looking at other aspects of regulation.
“As such, the Parliamentarians have raised concerns that that the Gambling Commission is not fit for purpose,” the GRH APPG said in a statement.
The group, created last year to investigate the impact of gambling-related harm, announced 11 key recommendations including the limit on online stakes and prizes. It also wants the government to “urgently” introduce new gambling legislation with a focus on harm prevention, and a ban on the use of credit cards to gamble online.
In addition, the group said the Gambling Commission needs to “urgently improve its standards in the area of online gambling”.
The APPG said the treatment of gambling addiction and support for gambling related harm should be part of the NHS remit, and called for a ‘smart statutory levy’ of 1% be introduced to fund research and that the commissioning of research be transferred from GambleAware and the Gambling Commission to independent UK research councils and a public health setting.
“This report highlights the urgent need for a root and branch review of the regulation of online gambling,” said the GRH APPG’s chair, Carolyn Harris MP.
“Stakes and prize limits online would be a major step forward in reducing the harm caused by the sector.
“It is not at all clear why the Gambling Commission is not looking at this as a matter of urgency. It is an abdication of its responsibility as a regulator.
“There must be consistent and appropriate regulation of all forms of gambling. I also urge the government to urgently review the provision of research, education and treatment in the sector. GambleAware are not effectively carrying out this function and it should immediately be brought into a public health setting.”
The GRH APPG took evidence from, among others, academics, problem gamblers, banks, charities and online gambling operators. The group said a full report will be published in the future as it is yet to meet with the new Gambling Minister or any representative from the Gambling Commission.
“It is clear from this inquiry that the powers of the Gambling Commission need to be significantly strengthened,” said Iain Duncan Smith MP, the vice-chair of GRH APPG.
“For too long, online gambling operators have exploited vulnerable gamblers to little or no retribution from the regulator. We cannot continue to fail vulnerable gamblers.”