SMF Report calls for £100 ‘protective cap’ on gambling spend

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Cross-party think-tank The Social Market Foundation (SMF) has called for further ‘protective regulation’ of spending limits to be rolled out, advising regulators that gamblers should be limited to betting ‘£100 each month until they pass more stringent checks‘.

Reported by the Financial Times, the think tank claims that it is ‘inevitable that gamblers will sometimes spend more than they can afford’. 

To combat this, SMF suggested that new measures should be introduced to prevent vulnerable individuals from chasing their debts via gambling.

This suggestion has come under criticism from industry figures, however, citing concerns over whether intrusive checks could infringe upon an individuals’ right to choose how they spend their money.

Dan Waugh, a sector analyst at Regulus Partners, stated that new limits on spending amounted to a ‘radical and intrusive approach to affordability and one that risks being accompanied by downwards only reviews’.

The report suggested that ‘£23 per week – or approximately £100 a month‘ – was a ‘socially acceptable’ betting limit for lower socioeconomic households. It further suggested that betting companies should then request proof of a customer’s financial situation by using tax returns, wage slips and credit checks if they wish to gamble more.

The data would then be passed on to the ‘gambling ombudsman’ and made accessible to gambling operators to prevent problem gamblers from gambling more with multiple companies.

The Betting and Gaming Council (BGC) criticised the suggestion, stating that the industry already carries out affordability checks and has further moved to strengthen all compliance disciplines in relation to customer affordability checks. 

The BGC responded: “We already carry out robust and improved affordability checks . . . We disagree with the suggestion of an arbitrary and random low cap on spending and can think of no other area of the economy where the government determines how much an individual can spend.”

The report, due to be published on Wednesday, comes as cross-party MPs have called for an overhaul of the 2005 Gambling Act, placing consumer protections at the forefront of UK gambling legislation – a directive backed by the recent House of Lords Select Committee reviewing the impact of gambling on UK society.   

The SMF suggested that sole responsibility for the sector should be taken away from DCMS and split between a new industry ombudsman and a licensing authority.

James Noyes, a former adviser to the Labour MP Tom Watson and author of the report, said that the implementation of ‘an unambiguous spending threshold’ was ‘the only way’ that individuals could spend within their means.