GAMBLING addiction is a terrible disease that can destroy families and drive people to suicide.
As politicians head out into the wind and rain in a bid to win your votes, it’s worth shining the light on a report which was issued just before the shutters came down on Parliament.
Earlier this month, the Gambling Related Harm All-Party Parliamentary Group called for stake and deposits limits to be introduced on online gambling products, in its interim report into the online gambling sector.
This report followed a six-month inquiry into the damage caused by online gambling. The inquiry was launched following growing anger among parliamentarians, charities, academics, families and individuals, at the high levels of harm caused by online gambling, which in some cases is tragically leading to suicide.
The report raises concerns about the lack of action from the Government and the Gambling Commission to “effectively address the damage caused by the online gambling sector”.
This inaction has allowed the industry to continue to prey on vulnerable gamblers, according to the MPs’ report.
The report also highlighted the disparity in content controls and stake and deposit limits between online and offline games. It notes that the Government has accepted the principle that harm can be reduced by reducing staking levels and argues that “it is clear that stake and deposit limits are needed in the online world to limit harm”.
The cross-party group said that there is no justification for having “slot machine style games online with staking levels above £2” in line with land-based venues.
The group is also calling 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.
The group’s chairman Carolyn Harris MP said: “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.
“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.”
There were also strong words from the vice-chairman Iain Duncan Smith MP, who said: “Gambling addiction is becoming a public health crisis.
“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. We cannot continue to fail vulnerable gamblers.
“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.”
The other vice-chairman, Ronnie Cowan MP 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.”
The new Government must take swift steps to increase the powers of the Gambling Commission and ensure vulnerable people do not become trapped in the cycle of despair that accompanies a gambling addiction.