DEPOSITING with credit cards at online betting sites and casinos in the UK could become a thing of the past if the government considers last-minute recommendations.
At the eleventh hour, thinktank ResPublica submitted several recommendations to the government in a bid to tackle problem gambling.
The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport’s (DCMS) 12-week consultation period closed on Tuesday, and the organisation took one last shot at reducing the number of players addicted to casino games or betting on sports in the UK.
The recommendations are unexpected since the media focus has been on the likelihood the government will reduce the maximum bet limit on fixed odds betting terminals (FOBTs) from £100 to £2.
While the media reported it’s a sure thing, UK bookmakers have labelled the reports the new Culture Secretary, Matthew Hancock, supports the £2 limit as a rumour.
“In addition to thousands of lost jobs and closed shops, a £2 stake, essentially a ban on FOBT content, would mean tens of millions wiped off racing’s income as each betting shop pays £30,000 in media rights,” William Hill CEO, Phillip Bowcock, said after denouncing the circulating stories.
But ResPublica is more concerned about the rate of problem gamblers in the country, recommending gambling companies pay a mandatory levy to fund treatment.
The policy, supported by the Labour Party, is based on the annual expenditure of problem gambling research, treatment, and education. According to the thinktank, the government spends more than £200 per person treating drug and alcohol addiction compared to problem gambling.
ResPublica stated in their submission that a one percent mandatory levy would fill the gap and go towards reducing the 430,000 people addicted to gambling.
Gambling charity, GambleAware, support the mandatory levy, stating that gambling companies currently contribute 0.1 percent of their gross gaming revenue to treatment programs. However, the organisation revealed many companies fail to honour the voluntary agreement.
The charity revealed it could only treat two percent of problem gamblers in the UK last year, due to a lack of funding, suggesting a ban on credit cards to bet online to reduce the risk gamblers take when it comes to wagering more than they can afford.
CEO of GambleAware, Marc Etches. said there’s a further two million at risk of developing a problem, and the charity wants to reduce the impact on these people’s lives.
While the charity supports the reduced maximum bet limit on FOBTS, Etches has urged DCMS not to ignore the rate of bets players can make on the machines. The maximum is currently £100 every 20 seconds, and although the stakes may come down, he wants the frequency changed too.
Deputy Labour leader, Tom Watson, is also among those lobbying the government to reduce FOBTs stakes.
“Anything less [than £2] will represent a capitulation to the lobbying power of the big gambling companies and will be letting down the families and communities that have been devastated by addiction to these machines,” he said.
But he added that it’s just one step in a broader strategy to tackle problem gambling incidences in the country.
“Once this decision is made the government needs to concentrate on other means of preventing addiction and properly funding treatment to help addicts recover,” he added.
Meanwhile, Parliament has been discussing the betting industry this week with the House of Lords urging bookmakers to get a grip when it comes to closing accounts.
Bookmakers have come under fire for being too quick in restricting punters accounts and closing them down, prompting politicians to urge bookmakers to be more transparent.
The House of Lord warned that if bookmakers left the issue alone, they open themselves to regulatory intervention, adding that rewarding winners ensures betting and racing grows.
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