After years of delay, the gambling white paper is finally here. You can read the full white paper online here, but if haven’t yet had a chance to digest all 268 pages, you might find the following summary of the key proposals a good place to start!
Although many of the proposals set out below are subject to further consultation, the government has said that it expects most of the key measures to be in place by summer 2024.
If you’d like to discuss any of the issues raised and how they might affect you, don’t hesitate to get in touch, and look out for our more detailed articles on the specific proposals in the days and weeks to come.
Financial risk checks
Unsurprisingly, the white paper proposes new obligations on operators to conduct “financial risk checks” on customers who may be at risk of harm due to unaffordable and unsustainable gambling losses. The Commission will consult on two proposed thresholds for these checks:
“Moderate loss threshold”
Proposed trigger: £125 net loss in a rolling month period, or £500 net loss in a rolling year period.
Proposed action by operators: Background checks at moderate levels of spend to check for financial vulnerability indicators, such as County Court judgments.
“Higher levels of spend”
Proposed trigger: £1000 net loss within 24 hours or £2000 within 90 days.
Proposed action by operators: Enhanced affordability checks at higher levels of spend.
The white paper proposes that triggers for enhanced affordability checks should be halved for those aged 18-24, and notes that checks should be “frictionless” for customers, with further information requested from customers only when required to complete an assessment.
Single customer view
The Commission will also consult on mandating participation in a cross-operator harm prevention system based on data sharing to prevent harm to individuals who hold multiple accounts or can open new ones easily. It’s not clear yet what the triggers will be for a customer’s data to be shares, or whether any limits for further checks will then apply across all operators.
Online game redesign
The Commission will review and consult on updating design rules for online products to make them safer by design, including considering features that exacerbate risk.
The white paper proposes introducing a stake limit for online slots, and a consultation will run on introducing a limit of between £2 and £15 per spin, to structurally limit the risks of harmful play. If recent (FOBT) history is anything to go by, it wouldn’t be surprising if the lowest limit is adopted. The Commission will also consult on slot-specific measures to give greater protections for 18 to 24-year-olds, which will include options of:
- A £2 stake limit per spin
- A £4 stake limit per spin; or
- An approach based on individual risk.
Increasing player protections
The Commission will consult on implementing player-set deposit limits such as making them mandatory or opt-out rather than opt-in and making customer-controlled gambling transaction blocks more robust.
DCMS will explore the potential for regulating competitions that offer significant prizes to introduce appropriate controls around player protection and, where applicable, returns to good causes. The white paper specifically references competitions that offer luxury homes or cars, which operate online in ways that could not have been foreseen in the Gambling Act 2005 (the “2005 Act”).
Advertising, sponsorship and branding
Advertising free bet and bonus offers
The Commission will consult on proposed new measures to address potential harms caused by gambling advertising and marketing, including reviewing the rules on online data-driven targeting of individuals, ensuring there are clear rules and fair limits on re-wagering requirements and time limits for bonus offers, and controls to allow customers to opt-in for certain types of marketing in relation to online bonuses and offers for different types of gambling products.
Targeted gambling advertising
The white paper notes that operators should go further in their use of technology to target online adverts away from children and vulnerable people, and online operators are “strongly encouraged” to use functionality that automatically excludes those showing signs of gambling-related harm or whose online profile is not clearly discernible as being someone over 18.
Operators are also strongly encouraged to use a facility that allows customers to opt-out of all gambling adverts.
These proposals are predominantly an expansion of work that operators are already taking forward to reduce children and vulnerable people’s exposure to advertising, and as such impact on operators should be limited.
Informational messaging on risks of gambling
Informational messaging will be strengthened to educate consumers on the risks associated with gambling. The responsibility for deciding on this messaging and its use will be taken from the gambling industry, and instead will be held by DCMS, the Department of Health and Social Care, and the Commission.
Sponsorship and branding
The white paper references the recent advertising rule changes in relation to the use of Premier League footballers in gambling adverts, and the Premier League’s voluntary ban on front of shirt gambling sponsors from the 2026/27 season onwards, but there are otherwise no new announcements in relation to advertising rules in sport
The white paper invites commitment from sports governing bodies to develop a cross-sport gambling sponsorship code, with rules to ensure all sponsorship deals are socially responsible.
The Gambling Commission’s powers and resources
Currently, the Commission’s fees (such as licence application fees) are set in secondary legislation. The paper notes that the Gambling Commission will be given the ability to adjust its own fees without going through Parliament, to allow it to adjust those fees “in light of inflation or emerging challenges”.
The paper explains that the Commission will become a “more proactive regulator”, with increased capacity to require and analyse more data from online operators to identify licence breaches, and increased resources to use its enforcement powers “to full effect” where breaches are identified. The government also plans to give the Commission increased powers to support disruption and enforcement activity against black market operators.
As expected, the paper announces a statutory levy on operators to fund projects and services to tackle gambling harms, replacing the current voluntary contribution system. The amount and arrangements for the levy will be consulted on, and the suggestion in the white paper is that the consultation will consider whether the amount of the levy should vary between sectors, based on each sector’s association with harm and fixed costs.
Dispute resolution and consumer redress
The white paper announces the creation of an ombudsman that will adjudicate complaints relation to social responsibility or gambling harm, where those complaints cannot be resolved with the operator. The information provided to the ombudsman will be used by the Commission to plan its enforcement activity.
Children and young adults
The paper announces a host of measures designed to strengthen protections for children and young people:
- The age limit for the National Lottery has already been raised to 18, and other lottery and football pools products will also be restricted to age 18 in due course. Until this legislation is introduced, providers are asked to voluntarily prevent play by 16 and 17 year olds.
- Legislative backing will be given to current voluntary measures to prevent the use of cash fruit machines by under 18s.
- The industry is challenged to improve age verification in venues that offer adult-only gaming machines, such as pubs, with the intention to introduce legislative measures to strengthen licensing authority powers and make provisions in the Commission’s code of practice binding.
- All licensed venues will be required to comply with test purchasing requirements, removing the previous exemption for the smallest venues.
- Operators will be required to give specific consideration to age as a factor when assessing potential customer vulnerabilities, and measures will be introduced that enhance protections for young adults (age 18 to 24), such as earlier interventions to assess financial risks and structural controls like a lower stake limit for online slots games.
- The Commission will shortly release a statement on vulnerabilities that sets out its expectations for operators on this issue.
The 2005 Act set out a range of restrictions for land-based casinos based on the assumption that restricting the number of casinos and the number of gaming machines they could make available were an important protection. The white paper recognises that the focus on the land based sector should not be on the characteristics of land-based products and quality of monitoring, and sets out a number of areas that are intended to relax the regulation of land based gambling.
Any unused 2005 Act casino licences where there is no prospect of redevelopment will be reallocated to other local authorities, and the white paper proposes increasing machine allowances in casinos by:
- Allowing 1968 Gaming Act (“1968 Act”) casinos which meet the requirements of a 2005 Act Small casino to be eligible for the same gaming machine allowances;
- Equalising the machine to table ratio at 5:1 for Large and Small 2005 Act and larger 1968 Act casinos; and
- Allowing smaller 1968 Act casinos to benefit from extra machines on a pro rata basis commensurate with their size and non-gambling space.Other measures which will benefit land-based casinos and other gaming venues include:
- Casinos of all sizes will be allowed to offer sports betting in addition to other gambling activities.
- Casinos catering to high-end customers will be able to offer credit to international visitors who have undergone stringent checks.
- Consultation options for cashless payments on gaming machines will be developed.
- The Gambling Commission will undertake a review of gaming machine technical standards, including the role of session limits across Category B and C machines.
- To improve customer choice and flexibility, the 80/20 ratio that restricts the balance of Category B and C/D machines in bingo and arcade venues will be adjusted to 50/50.
- Licensed bingo premises may be permitted to offer side bets following further review.
- The white paper supports proposals for new machine games to be tested, and trials of linked gaming machines may be allowed in venues other than casinos, subject to further work to assess the conditions and how to limit gambling harm.
- Cumulative impact assessments will be introduced to align the regimes for alcohol and gambling licensing, and the maximum fees that licensing authorities can charge for premises licenses and permits may be increased.
The white paper also recognises the significant contribution that racing makes to British sporting culture and its particular importance to the British rural economy. As a result, the government has started the process of reviewing the horserace betting levy and has committed to considering the case for other measures proposed by the horseracing sector.
It’s clear from the number and scope of the proposals that change is coming, but almost all of the proposed changes are subject to consultation – so exactly when that change is coming is much less clear.
We will be reporting on the new proposals in more detail in the coming weeks, so keep an eye out for further updates, and please let us know if any of the above topics are of particular interest!
For further information, please contact:
Andy Danson, Partner, Bird & Bird