Headlines Hurt: Concern Grows as Media Push for Tougher UK Gambling Regulations

3 min read

Parts of the British media have taken a momentary break from sensationalizing COVID-19 to take aim at the gambling industry.

UK gambling headlines
Gamblers in the UK are concerned that media scare stories may negatively impact the industry ahead of legislative changes. (Image: The Times)

As the UK government prepares to update its national Gambling Act, voices from both sides are starting to have their say. However, one side of the debate is currently drowning out the other, according to some members of the community.

The Times newspaper recently led with the headline “We lost £11.8 Million: It’s time to make the betting industry pay.” Horse racing enthusiast Jason Brautigam believes this article could harm the UK gambling industry.

Bettors Concerned by Mainstream Pressure

Brautigam tweeted that the broadsheet newspaper appears to be putting “pressure” on politicians at a time the UK Gambling Act is under review.

Online gambling analyst and senior consultant at Eilers & Krejcik Gaming, Alun Bowden, offer a reply. He pointed out that The Times had previously campaigned for changes to slot gaming laws in the UK.

The mainstream media often has the power to sway public opinion. Bettors like Brautigam are concerned that articles, such as those by The Times, will influence the current review of UK gambling laws.

Peter Ling of the Smart Betting Club also outlined his concerns. In an update published on Jan. 15, he called for UK-based bettors to take action.

“We have only weeks to fight for our rights to have a decent bet,” Ling wrote.

Ling believes that new affordability checks will hurt the majority of bettors. The UK Gambling Commission (UKGC) has proposed limiting bettors to losses of no more than £2,000 per month. One proposal sets the monthly loss limit at £100.

UK Gambling Reforms Must be Balanced and Fair

Efforts to reduce problem gambling are welcomed by all. However, Ling believes regulators need to take a targeted approach rather than implement a general rule.

“[Regulations] need targeted action to really treat those types of betting which have the greatest issues with gambling disorder, rather than a blanket limit that impacts the vast majority of us who bet sensibly,” Ling continues.

Most agree that updating the UK’s 2005 Gambling Act is necessary to account for the growth of online betting and gaming. However, the way it should be done is now a matter for debate (see video below).

The Department for Digital, Culture, Media, and Sport (DCMS) has called for evidence from all interested parties. The call for evidence is open until March 31, after which, the DCMS will review submissions and debate changes to the Gambling Act.

Some believe the influence of certain media outlets could skew the results. Ling has called for bettors to submit evidence of their experiences and write to their local Member of Parliament.

Gambling should be done safely and responsibly. However, as Vice-Chairman of Peers for Gambling Reform, Lord Philip Smith of Hindhead has noted, there needs to be a full and fair review.

Changing legislation based on incomplete data or scare stories will be unproductive. Lord Smith has urged the government to take an “evidence-based approach” to the complex problem. Bettors like Brautigam feel the media shouldn’t be controlling the narrative.

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