Gambling companies face mandatory levy in long-awaited White Paper plans

Gambling companies are to be forced to step up controls on gamblers “to better protect even those who can’t afford small losses” as part of plans to tackle addiction in the biggest industry regulatory shift in 15 years.

The plans also include maximum online slots stakes of between £2 and £15 for all customers subject to consultation and a new statutory levy which will see gaming companies being forced to fund more innovative research, education and treatment, the Culture Secretary Lucy Frazer.

Ms Frazer said in a statement to the House of Commons: ‘We need a new approach which reflects that a flutter is one thing, uncontrolled addiction is another.

“So today we are bringing our pre-smartphone regulations into the present day with a gambling white paper for the digital age.”

Ministers are undertaking the most comprehensive review of gambling laws in 15 years to ensure they are fit for the digital age following an explosion in online betting and a series of high-profile cases where customers have suffered enormous losses or took their own lives.

Launched in December 2020, the long-delayed review has been overseen by four culture secretaries, six gambling ministers and three prime ministers, and its official publication has stalled four times during government turmoil and the pandemic.

Ms Frazer also announced the Gambling Commission would consult on bonus offers to ensure they are not used to “exacerbate the harm”.

He said: “We know that many addicts find every time they free themselves from the temptation to gamble, they are drawn into the orbit of online companies with the offer of a free bet or a few free spins.

The statutory tax would “turn the tables on problem gambling, which sees gaming companies being forced to fund more innovative research, education and treatment,” while plans to create a non-statutory ombudsman would give customers a single point of contact.

Ms Frazer also said the government would do more to “protect children” by “ensuring that children cannot gamble, either online or on widely accessible scratch cards”.

On the plan to remove restrictions for the land-based sector, he said: “Finally, we know that the current status quo disadvantages casinos, bingo halls and other traditional establishments compared to their online equivalents.

“A number of assumptions that prevailed at the time of the 2005 law now seem increasingly obsolete.

“So we plan to rebalance the regulation and remove the restrictions that disadvantage the land sector.”

NHS Director for Mental Health Claire Murdoch said: “The NHS has long been calling for action to tackle gambling addiction destroying people’s lives – I have personally heard of countless examples of people bereaved by addiction from gambling or have contemplated suicide – so I am delighted that the Government is committed to tackling this cruel disease.

“While the NHS is dealing with record numbers, with nearly 50% more deferrals last year than a year earlier, it shouldn’t be left to the Health Service to pick up the pieces left behind by a billion-pound industry earning on vulnerable people, so I fully endorse the legal levy set out in today’s White Paper and look forward to reading the proposals in detail.”

Zoe Osmond, chief executive of the charity GambleAware, said: “We are delighted that after years of delay the gambling white paper has finally been published.

“This White Paper is just the start of the process, so we hope any subsequent consultation period will be swift to ensure sufficient protections are in place to help prevent gambling harms.

“As the leading charity and strategic commissioner for gambling harm prevention and treatment services in Britain, we will continue to play our full part in the collective efforts to bring about a gambling harm free society.” gamble”.

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