Both the Conservative and Labour parties say

they will rewrite the Act, with a view to making it fit for the digital age. This is a curious promise, given that the Act already specifically regulates internet and mobile gambling. The use of the word “remote” rather than “online” seems to have thrown some politicians. Nevertheless, a review of the Act has been promised, although it will no doubt find itself well down the priority list, with Brexit taking up all the room at the top. There are some nuances in the particular areas of

regulation the main political parties propose to focus on. If the Tories retain power, they will give particular consideration to the issues of loot boxes and gambling on credit cards. These are easy wins, especially as the Commission may be set to ban the use of credit cards before any changes to the Act can be made. As well as setting their sights on credit cards, the Lib Dems would increase restrictions on advertising, impose a problem gambling levy and create a gambling ombudsman. Labour also support the levy and promise to curb marketing activities, but only mention advertising “in sports”. The possibility of a ban on gambling sponsors for sports teams, tournaments and venues would seem to be a real possibility if Labour comes into power in December. The SNP, who were strong supporters of the campaign against FOBTs, proposes a public enquiry into gambling related harm and reform of charity lotteries. Regardless of which party is successful in December’s elections, the common themes of further restrictions on credit card use and advertising by gambling operators are likely to be put into effect within the next year or two. Many of the political parties’ suggestions are reflected in, or perhaps are derived from, the report of the Gambling Related Harm All Party Parliamentary Group, published on 4 November 2019. If all the suggestions of this report were to be implemented, it would be hard to resist the argument that Great Britain was in fact the most highly regulated jurisdiction in the world. It would be very likely that we would see many more operators reaching the view that Britain was no longer a worthwhile jurisdiction to target. A number of the recommendations of this report will not stand up to detailed scrutiny, in particular suggestions that bonuses and incentives be eliminated (although there is a risk that Swedish-style restrictions might be considered) and that online stakes should be limited to £2 to match machines available in retail betting shops. In their bid to appease those calling for

further regulation of gambling, the parties must be careful not to go too far. The British public do not typically like being told by the Government what they can and cannot do. If new regulations went so far as, for example, setting mandatory limits on the amount that customers are allowed to gamble based on their salary, a backlash from the general public might be expected. Of even more

concern is the risk that customers choose to gamble with unlicensed operators, who will continue to offer attractive incentives and unlimited play but may not offer any protections such as self-exclusion and voluntary account limits. While there are limits beyond which increased regulation will not meet its own objectives, the gradual creep in the requirements that must be met by gambling operators is making Great Britain an increasingly challenging place to do business. So to answer the question in this article’s title, Great Britain is already a highly regulated gambling market and is set to become more so. However, we are approaching a limit, beyond which the public will probably not accept unwarranted restrictions on their freedom of choice. Assuming they wish to remain in this market, what can

operators do to meet the challenge of increasing regulation? Firstly, it is essential that they understand exactly what they are permitted to do under the current licence conditions and codes of practice, to avoid imposing unnecessary restrictions on themselves through lack of understanding. Operators will need to be increasingly innovative in creating products, bonus structures and advertising campaigns which are compliant but still appealing to customers, along with software and processes which increase the efficiency of necessary compliance functions. But innovation must be balanced with the need to take a long-term view – taking an aggressive approach to the interpretation of current restrictions or exploiting loopholes in their wording can add weight to calls for further regulation.

Melanie is a gambling regulatory lawyer with 13 years’ experience in the sector. Melanie advises on all aspects of gambling law including licence applications, compliance, advertising, licence reviews and changes of control. She has acted for a wide range of gambling operators including major online and land-based bookmakers and casinos, B2B game and software suppliers and start-ups. She also frequently advises operators of raffles, prize competitions, free draws and social gaming products. Melanie has a particular interest in the use of new technology for gambling products and novel product ideas.

DECEMBER 2019 31

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