The Gambling Related Harm All-Party Parliamentary Group (GRH APPG) has released its interim report demanding the UK Gambling Commission (UKGC) to step up its efforts in curbing gambling-realted harms. 

Chaired by Carolyn Harris MP, the cross-party organisation refers to the lack of action from the government and UKGC which it believes has enabled industry players to “prey on vulnerable gamblers.”

It presented a range of recommendations including limits on stakes and prizes plus the “urgent” need to ban credit card usage, describing it as “inconceivable” that gamblers are able to utilise debt to fund their addictions. 

Carolyn Harris commented: “This report highlights the urgent need for a root and branch review of the regulation of online gambling. Stakes and prize limits online would be a major step forward in reducing the harm caused by the sector. 

“It is not at all clear why the Gambling Commission is not looking at this as a matter of urgency. It is an abdication of its responsibility as a regulator. There must be consistent and appropriate regulation of all forms of gambling. 

“I also urge the Government to urgently review the provision of research, education and treatment in the sector. Gamble Aware are not effectively carrying out this function and it should immediately be brought into a public health setting.”

The GRH APPG took evidence from a range of sources: academics, problem gamblers, banks, charities and online gambling operators. 

The report calls for a £2 limit to be introduced on all online slot machine games which is currently in place across retail venues. 

Issues surrounding the Gambling Commissions’ approach to stakes and prizes has made some in parliament questions if its “fit for purpose” although the group did acknowledge the ongoing regulation review. 

The group calls on online gambling operators to sign its ‘Charter for Regulatory Reform’, to signal their intention and support for the policy proposals and recommendations, outlined in its report. 

Vice-Chair, GRH APPG, Rt Hon Iain Duncan Smith, described gambling addiction as a “public health crisis” and that the UK government “cannot continue to fail vunlnerable gamblers.”

“It is clear from this inquiry that the powers of the Gambling Commission need to be significantly strengthened. For too long, online gambling operators have exploited vulnerable gamblers to little or no retribution from the regulator,” added Smith. 

“I therefore urge the Commission to look into this issue in greater depth. It is outrageous that there are not stake limits online, that gamblers are still able to gamble using credit cards online and that operators are able to continue to offer inducements to the vulnerable without proper sanction.”

As part of the recommendations, the group said that the Government should urgently introduce new gambling legislation with a focus on harm prevention with solutions such as improved affordability checks to provide a safer approach. 

Operators should be placed with a ‘duty of care’ and that the treatment of gambling addiction and support for gambling related harm to be part of the NHS remit.

It also proposed online gambling operators should “significantly improve” the measures they take to protect vulnerable and at-risk gamblers along with simplifying their terms and conditions.

Ronnie Cowan MP, Vice-Chair, GRH APPG, added: “It appears that the business model of some of these online gambling companies encourages and drives harmful gambling behaviour. 

“These operators use various marketing and technological tools to extract as much money as possible from vulnerable gamblers, then use NDAs to cover up wrongdoings. 

“This cannot continue to happen. The next Government and the Gambling Commission need to take radical actions to reduce gambling related harm.”