The U.K. government faces pressure from Parliament to tighten online gambling rules, with lawmakers concerned people stuck at home during the coronavirus lockdown will run up huge losses without safeguards.
The House of Lords Gambling Industry Committee published a report on Thursday calling for stake limits, a slowdown of online play, and a ban on gambling advertising around sports, including on soccer teams’ shirts. It comes less than a week after a House of Commons committee said the Gambling Commission, charged with regulating the industry, “failed to adequately protect consumers” as business moved online.
The lockdown imposed at the end of March to halt the spread of coronavirus has been a boon to online businesses, from retailers to streaming services, and gambling firms are no different -- despite the cancellation of many live sporting events. In June, 888 Holdings Plc said it expected its financial performance to be significantly ahead of expectations. GVC Holdings Plc also said its online business continued to “trade strongly” during the lockdown.
This is what worries some politicians, including members of Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s Conservative Party. One of them, Richard Holden, is pushing for a 2-pound ($2.50) stake limit for online fixed-odds games -- matching the limit on machines in betting shops, as well as a tougher regulator.
“We’ve got a regulator with a budget of 19 million pounds last year to regulate an industry with a yield of 11.3 billion pounds in the same period,” Holden said Wednesday in an interview. “Gambling should be a social activity: A day at the races or a night out at a casino or the bingo. The real danger comes with unlimited casino gambling from people’s bedrooms or on the bus.”
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