Casinos for youThe UK Minister for Tech and the Digital Economy, Chris Philp, says the gambling reform white paper is on its way. Meanwhile, a highbrowed public letter from the country’s public health association has all the answers.
In the absence of the long-awaited gambling reform white paper, British Gambling Minister Chris Philp received some unsolicited advice from the country’s Association of Directors of Public Health (ADPH). In an open letter to the MP, Greg Fell from the ADPH and Professor Maggie Rae from the Faculty of Public Health addressed numerous recommendations on public health and gambling regulations.
Although the consultation period for legislative recommendations expired on 1 April, Fell and Rae took it upon themselves to guide the minister in gambling reform matters in a letter dated June 14, 2022. Fell and Rae write that the Gambling Act review must protect “the public from being harmed or exploited by gambling and the gambling industry”.
The latest update from parliament is that the white paper on the Gambling Act review will come to light in the next few weeks. Perhaps Fell and Rae hope their letter can aid in speeding up the drawn-out process.
Key Recommendations from Greg Fell and Professor Maggie Rae
The vice-president of the ADPH, Greg Fell, together with Professor Maggie Rae of the Faculty of Public Health, wrote this extensive letter to Chris Philp, British MP.
While most of the information address points highlighted throughout the past two years of the review, some come across as conflicting and authoritarian. The letter starts with a narrative that vilifies the gambling industry and states:
“Society should not be subjected to the marketing strategies of the gambling industry. Any person who gambles should be safe from preventable harm regardless of their ability to protect themselves.”
Then the authors delve into business practices and explain how the bottom line is all that matters. Therefore, they believe it is unreasonable to expect that gambling operators could put consumer protection ahead of their profit margins. Fell and Rae also address the talks of a watered-down reform, with reports circling on the omission of a research, education, and treatment (RET) levy.
A clear message on gambling advertising comes through from the letter’s onset as Fell and Rae write about regulating marketing strategies and later on point to similar steps taken in other regulated markets. The letter states that because of technological advances, children and young people are invariably exposed to gambling ads, and this creates the next generation of gamblers. They appeal to the minister for the restriction of marketing in the interest of public health.
Furthermore, Rae and Fell address issues related to gambling harm support and the efficacy thereof, as well as the undue interference of gambling industry stakeholders in policy making.
Pressing Matters and an Outstanding White Paper
A tender topic pressed on by the authors of the letter is the management and funding of RET for gambling harms and victims of it. It appears the letter addresses both sides of the narrative, pointing out that stable funds are necessary, but a conflict of interest may arise from gambling industry support. Fell and Rea recommend:
“Transparent commitment to an agreed proportion of funding to be directly allocated to gambling harm prevention and reduction” but continue with further recommendations of, “Absolute transparency on how the funding is administered, the governance framework and absolutely no direct or indirect industry influence there is in this area.”
The duo recommend a clear and published aim for the RET levy of changed behaviours for individuals and the industry. They write that inextricably, a rise in profits means a rise in gambling harm. Therefore, the opposite should be the goal.
On the Contrary
It seems like prohibition should be on the cards in varying degrees across the board, according to the two authors. All the while, lawmakers attempt to draw the balance between relevant regulations and the genuine risk of pushing punters into the open arms of black market operators through unreasonable restrictions. Perhaps the discord in the ADPH letter reflects that of the current political climate in the UK, hinting at why the reform drags along.
The question is whether these points will influence and speed up the release of the impending white paper, or inhibit its progress further?
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