Following a year-long consultation, Labour’s deputy leader Tom Watson has announced a number of measures that aim to reduce the risks of problem gambling, including:
- A ban on credit card gambling.
- A ban on advertising during live sports events.
- New rules so gamblers can block gambling transactions on their debit cards.
- A 1% industry levy to fund research into problem gambling.
- New NHS guidelines on gambling addiction and mental health.
The first three of these represent the most direct changes for gamblers themselves, while the last two affect how problem gambling is addressed when it occurs.
So what are the implications of a ban on credit card gambling, an opt-out from debit card gambling by asking your bank, and a ‘whistle to whistle’ ban on gambling adverts during sporting events?
Putting right the 2005 Gambling Act
Some of the measures to restrict the gambling industry just restore the controls that were relaxed by the 2005 Gambling Act, introduced under Tony Blair’s Labour government.
The 2005 Gambling Act:
- Allowed gambling adverts on television and radio.
- Proposed the creation of eight super casinos in the UK.
- Introduced the limit of four FOBTs per betting shop.
- Removed ‘no purchase necessary’ clauses from product promotions.
In a sense, some of what is now being proposed appears to be a way to make amends, albeit 13 years later and at a time when Labour are not in government.
‘Bet in play’ gambling ads
Much gambling advertising during live sporting events is for ‘bet in play’ markets and features live odds – putting pressure on punters to place their stakes within seconds.
It’s impossible to target adults only when it is clear that many teenagers and even children will be watching their sporting heroes, making a ban on gambling ads in live sports broadcasts a sensible precaution.
There would naturally be a loss of advertising revenue, but the net benefits are overwhelming – we should be encouraging young people to take up sports, not take up betting on sports.
Gambling on credit cards
Finally, it is hard to object to a ban on credit card gambling. Credit cards by definition spend money that you do not already have – if it is your own money, you can use a debit card instead.
It should be as difficult as possible to run up problem debts while gambling, yet credit card gambling is easy and attracts high interest rates.
By comparison, there are good reasons not to restrict sensible debit card gambling, which only spends money you already have – and which Labour are proposing cardholders should be able to block by asking their banks.
This option would ensure that cardholders are in control of whether their debit card can be used for gambling transactions, which could ultimately allow card readers to be included in a wider variety of gaming machines.
At a time when more and more people head out to the pub with no cash in their pocket, only a debit card, this makes good sense to allow the industry to keep up with society’s preferences as to how they spend their money.