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Pro-gambling MP urges “balance” over reforms

| By Robert Fletcher
British MP Mark Jenkinson, who previously spoke out in support of the industry, has called for “targeted intervention” with gambling reform, urging the government to ensure that its approach is “balanced”.
affordability checks

Writing in political publication “The House” for the Betting and Gaming Council, Jenkinson warned against a blanket approach to gambling reform as part of the ongoing Gambling Act Review, saying this would not be as effective as targeted changes.

Jenkinson highlighted research from the Gambling Commission that suggested only 0.3% of the population that gamble suffer from gambling-related harm, saying wholesale changes to regulations would not be in the interest of the majority.

However, he did acknowledge that the current laws need updating to address issues in the modern market, urging the government to use the “technology and the tools already available and devise a targeted approach”.

“How do you allow adults the freedom to bet, while protecting the vulnerable,” Jenkinson said. “One such measure being pushed by the anti-gambling lobby is blanket affordability checks at a very low level, the kind of checks that would compel punters to prove they could afford to have a flutter.

“But compare that to drinking, what would voters say if government, in a move to protect alcoholics, decided to set a limit on how much the rest of us could spend on drink across a set timeframe? There would be outrage, and rightly so. A ‘one size fits all’ approach rarely fits anyone.

“Surely better to use technology and the tools already available and devise a targeted approach? An approach that identifies those at risk and puts in additional protections, while allowing the rest of the public to carry on doing what they love without Nanny State intrusion. That would be the balanced approach.”

Jenkinson noted how the betting and gaming sector contributes billions to the economy and in tax revenue, warning that if the market were to be “over-regulated”, it could harm the wider tourism sector, as well as high streets, across Britain. 

In addition, he said introducing measures such as blanket affordability checks could lead to a rise in the number of punters gambling with unlicensed sites, which do not offer the same protection tools as licensed sites, nor to they contribute to Britain in terms of tax.

“Over-regulate the legal market, and frustrated punters will find another way to place their bets,” Jenkinson said. “The numbers using these sites has doubled and the amount staked is now in the billions.

“Getting the balance right can often be like walking a tightrope. One foot wrong and you’ll come crashing down to earth. I decided long ago to make up my own mind about betting and gaming, not fall for the lazy stereotypes others continue to cling to. 

“I see an industry ready to find a balance – I hope government offers them a pathway so punters can continue to enjoy a bet.”

Jenkinson’s comments come after the Betting and Gaming Council this week published the results of a new YouGov survey that showed 67% of punters believe compulsory spending limits would risk driving users to the black market.

The survey also found that 64% of the public believe an increased use of illegal sites would cause a rise in problem gambling rates. 

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