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Gambling White Paper published Published Date: 27/04/2023

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Read the Oral statement by the Culture Secretary on the white paper setting out government's plans for major reform of gambling laws

The white paper on gambling, marks the biggest shake-up of regulation in the sector for nearly 20 years.

The government said online slot machines were a particularly high-risk product, associated with large losses.

The white paper proposes a consultation on stake limits of between £2 and £15 per spin for online slots machines.

However, the government also suggested lower limits and greater protections for 18 to 24-year-olds, who "may be a particularly vulnerable cohort".

The consultation on limits for younger gamblers will include options of a £2 stake limit per spin; a £4 stake limit per spin; or an approach based on individual risk.

Some gambling firms including Flutter, which owns Paddy Power, SkyBet and Betfair, imposed slot limits of £10 from September 2021.

Culture Secretary Lucy Frazer said the government will do more to "protect children" by "ensuring children can do no forms of gambling, either online or on widely accessible scratch cards".

The new regulations also mean gamblers who are losing large amounts of money could face checks.

These will kick in when a gambler loses £1,000 in 24 hours, or £2,000 over 90 days. How these will be carried out is as yet unclear.

The government also plans strengthen pub licensing laws to prevent children from playing slot machines with cash prizes in pubs, and to legislate to ban all lotteries from offering tickets to under 18s.

"Although we recently raised the age limit for the National Lottery to 18, other lottery and football pools products are still legally permitted from age 16," the white paper noted.

The white paper marks the first new proposed regulation in the sector since the invention of the smartphone, which the government says it hopes will update laws for the digital age.

Frazer, who outlined the plans in Parliament on Thursday, says the rise of smartphones means "now there's a Las Vegas on every phone".

The announcement of what it actually contains has been delayed at least four times, since the review of gambling laws was first announced by Oliver Dowden, then culture secretary, in 2020.

Since then, there have been regular reports of individual cases of problem gamblers - but the government's solution has been crafted by three different culture secretaries and three prime ministers without seeing the light of day.

Frazer told MPs: "When gambling becomes addiction, it can wreck lives. Shattered families, lost jobs, foreclosed homes, jail time, suicide.

"These are all the most extreme scenarios. But it is important we acknowledge that for some families those worst fears for their loved ones have materialised."

She added: "Gambling problems in adults have always been measured in terms of money lost, but you cannot put a cost on the loss of dignity, the loss of identity, and, in some cases, the loss of life that it can cause.

"We need a new approach that recognises a flutter is one thing, unchecked addiction is another. So, today we are bringing our pre-smartphone regulations into the present day with a gambling white paper for the digital age."

One of the proposals is a mandatory levy to be imposed on gambling firms, to be used to pay for addiction treatment and research. But it is not yet clear how that funding will be managed.

Narrative source: BBC