Last week, the government finally published draft plans for reform in gambling laws with greater protections for those at risk of gambling harm. I’ve seen it all too often the impact of gambling on individuals and on their families lives as those who become addicted the gamble much of the household income with huge impacts on their welfare and health and that of their loved ones.
Gambling legislation was last looked at almost 20 years ago. Since then we’ve seen a huge rise in online and mobile gambling. Smartphones give opportunities to gamble online almost anywhere and at any time, changing gambling unrecognisably.
Gone are the days when you had to walk to the bookies at the end of the road to place a bet.
Gambling is now not only advertised at you in the living room on your TV, but constantly in your pocket, in your home, at your work, and in your head.
People’s lives, and their families lives, have been devastated by gambling. Evidence has been clear for a long time about the impact of gambling harms and the growing rates of problem gambling.
We’ve long needed new gambling legislation to bring it into the digital age. Labour has been calling for this for a long time and over the last few years I have supported and spoken at a number of events in Parliament.
Most of what will be in the white paper we support and welcome. Key measures include increased responsibility for companies to check that losses aren’t harmful for punters, increased regulations of ‘VIP’ schemes and bonus offers for gamblers, a new levy requiring gambling companies to fund research, education and treatment on the harms of gambling, and a new ombudsman, to help those who have lost out owing to operator failures. In addition, the government will take action to ensure that children cannot engage in any form of gambling either online or on scratch cards.
But all this could have been done a long time ago. Most of what they are announcing today was ready to go a year ago. Six gambling ministers and four culture secretaries have promised to publish this white paper ‘imminently’.
From bingo to races, some forms of gambling are traditional British pastimes. Around half of adults participate in some form of gambling, and the vast majority do so in moderation. However, too many people have already been impacted by gambling harm.
As the proposed new laws begin to get debated, I want to ask anyone in the constituency who has been affected by gambling to get in touch with my office at email@example.com so that we can work together to get the reforms we need to the industry to much better protect those who are vulnerable and at risk.