UK Playing Act overview and associated developments

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On 8 December 2020, the Government launched the long-awaited review of the UK’s Gambling Act 2005 (the “2005 Act”), with a call for evidence running for 16 weeks to 31 March 2021. After the call for evidence closes, the Government is expected to publish its conclusions and proposals for reform in a white paper later this year.

The review comes hot on the heels of recent developments such as the reduction of the maximum stake on fixed-odds betting terminals from £100 to £2, the tightening of rules on age verification and identity checks and mandatory requirement on online operators to sign up to GAMSTOP (the national multi-operator online self-exclusion scheme), and the prohibition on use of credit cards to fund gambling activity.

It is worth noting that other reforms to the UK’s gambling regime are also being pursued in the meantime. Only yesterday, the UK Gambling Commission (the “GC”) announced stricter measures for online slot games (such as limits on spin speeds and a ban on features that speed up play or celebrate losses as wins) that operators will need to implement by 31 October 2021. The GC is also considering stricter requirements on operators designed to enhance customer protection such as interventions and affordability checks. Separately, the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport has launched a consultation into the funding of the GC and is considering a licensing fee uplift in this regard. Finally, the Department of Health and Social Care is also working on the harmful effects of gambling, an area which is likely to gain more importance following the recent recognition by the WHO of gaming disorder as an addictive behaviour disorder.

In relation to the review of the 2005 Act, the Government’s policy paper states that there are three objectives:

  1. to explore whether changes are needed to gambling regulation to reflect changes to the gambling landscape since 2005, particularly due to technological advances;
  2. to ensure an appropriate balance between consumer choice and prevention of harm on the other hand;
  3. to ensure that customers remain protected whenever and wherever they are gambling and to establish an equitable regulatory approach to online and land-based industries.

The call for evidence sets out 45 questions across six distinct categories and the broad themes emerging from these are set out below.