Home Gambling Industry Affordability checks could do more harm than good, asserts former UK gambling minister

Affordability checks could do more harm than good, asserts former UK gambling minister

25 Jan 2022
3 min. read

John Whittingdale
John Whittingdale, a former UK gambling minister, warned that placing too many restrictions on those who wish to gamble safely could lead them to gambling on the black market. He made his comments during an annual meeting of the Betting and Gaming Council (BGC), asserting that some of the proposals for affordability checks were "extraordinary." He added that there was no evidence to suggest that gambling advertising causes increased problem gambling.

Whittingdale, who is also a former UK culture secretary, spoke with the government during a review of gambling legislation. A white paper is expected to be released in the spring. He stated during the meeting, "The danger of driving people towards the black market is a real one."

If you make it too difficult for people or place too much burden on those who want to gamble safely and can afford it, they will be upset and will seek out other options. "There are some in the campaign groups who dismiss it, who say the black market is tiny, that it is vastly exaggerated by the industry as a sort of bogeyman they use to try and argue against controls. I don't believe that. I believe the black market is real," he warned.

The BGC published a poll this week that found that less than one-fifth of gamblers would accept checks on their financial situation in order to be allowed to gamble.

Ministers warn the YouGov poll shows the hazards of potential gambling measures.

Whittingdale stated that there were many proposals on how far and how intrusive affordability checks should be extended. He expressed his concerns about those who suggested that, for example, everyone who wishes to place a wager should first register, and then be evaluated by a government agency as to their ability to pay.

"This is an extraordinary suggestion," he exclaimed. "I don't believe for a second the government will do it, but it's an indication of the extent to which some people are seeking to impose regulation which would destroy your industry."

Whittingdale stated that gambling sponsorship and advertising were areas where there was "a lot of pressure to further restrict," including calls for bans.

He added: "I was very much aware that firstly the evidence that advertising leads to an increase in problem gambling is pretty much non-existent. Some have argued that it does, but certainly the assessments I have seen showed no linkage."

Maldon's Conservative MP added that while gambling advertising is subject to certain requirements, a ban on it would have a "huge effect" on broadcasters and sport.

It was suggested that Chris Philp would be more tough on the gambling industry when he succeeded Whittingdale in September as gambling minister. Whittingdale claimed that he underestimated Philp and was wrongly judging him.

He said, "I think he will proceed on the basis of evidence and will wish to preserve the industry as one which plays a major part in our leisure economy, creates jobs and benefits the Treasury."

25 Jan 2022
3 min. read