Playing reforms will imply a brand new lack of freedom, warns Andrew Bridgen MP | Categorical remark | remark


As we try to enter the economy, we should all cherish our freedoms more and beware of big governments that want to control what we do in our lives in the future. With this in mind, I find some aspects of the ongoing consultation on the Gambling Act deeply worrying. While I agree that a review is urgently needed, especially since the Gambling Commission has apparently slept behind the wheel for several years. However, some of the proposed measures are nothing more than an affront to freedom.

Most noticeable is an affordability suggestion where those wishing to place a bet would have to provide evidence of their income and limit themselves to losses of as little as £ 100. Such a move would be a bureaucratic nightmare, raise major privacy issues, and undoubtedly drive the punters either entirely out of the way or worse, into the black market. Either way, it would create enormous financial problems in the sport at a time they can least afford and pose an existential threat to some like horse racing who depend on betting sales.

This is clearly a sledgehammer to crack a nutshell, and he doesn't appreciate the different gambling products available and the fact that problem gambling rates are higher for those using some products than others. For example, online slot machines, casino and bingo have comparatively much higher problem gambling rates than, for example, betting on horse racing or football.

The reason we are in the situation we are in is because the Gambling Commission did not act when the bookmakers expanded into the field of online casinos, games and slot machines. Products where you have a guaranteed advantage over sports betting and the house always wins. In addition, it is very easy to lose money very quickly. Unlike a bet on a soccer game that lasts 90 minutes, an online slot machine can be wagered approximately every 10 seconds.

The evidence suggests that this type of gambling is the problem and that more action is needed, such as through limited stakes and minimal gaps between games. Something that a competent gambling commission would have recognized and implemented years ago, and something they historically did not do when betting terminals with fixed odds were introduced.

However, the Commission's failure must not destroy the legitimate pastime of millions, a major source of funding for sport and a major source of income for the Treasury. It seems clear to me that you cannot put affordability controls in place on qualified sports betting like you cannot on stock market investments. These proposals smell like a big state and will only serve to drive industry underground to a totally unregulated market.

It's also impossible to wager on cash transactions unless citizens are required to carry their tax returns and annual bank statements with them when placing a bet on the Grand National at a betting shop! Is this really the country we want to live in?

We must do everything we can to reasonably protect the vulnerable, and protection is far more common today than it was in the past, but in the same way we do not question a person who buys a bottle of wine or whiskey if they are an alcoholic . and if they can afford it? Then the millions of recreational sports gamers in the country shouldn't interfere in the way they spend their money.

I am therefore calling for this review to decouple sports betting from online casinos and games, to focus on the latter for regulation and protection, and to put in place a regulator to keep pace with changes in the industry rather than clearly always behind the curve to stand.