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20 October 2011

Implementation and operation of the Gambling Act

Implementation and operation of the Gambling Act

This week the Culture, Media and Sport committee started its inquiry into the implementation and operation of the Gambling Act. Evidence in the first session was given by representatives of the National Casino industry Forum, the Association of British Bookmakers and betting retailers.

The committee are leading an inquiry looking at the Gambling Act of 2005, looking at how effective the Act has been since its introduction, it's financial impact on the industry and the effectiveness of the gambling commission since its establishment. They are also considering the impact of off-shore gambling, why the act has not led to any new licenses for casinos and what impact the act has had on levels of problem gambling.

The National Casino industry Forum was the first of the groups giving evidence on October 18, emphasising the fact that by loosening the regulations, more money could be made for the exchequer. They stressed that the Government should see Casinos as a positive place to be, as well as a helpful source of income. The casino representatives insisted that they are a mainstream leisure activity. The Evangelical Alliance, which will be giving evidence to this committee, argued that in effect money is being made from other people's loss.

Meanwhile representatives from Ladbrokes, William Hill and the association of British Bookmakers focused on job creation and economic growth, and complained that the high regulatory costs are putting betting shops out of business. They called for the committee to look at these increasing regulatory costs, as well as Andrew Lyman representing William Hill requesting that they 'treat us like any other retail sector'.

As suggested in their written evidence, the National Casino industry Forum want to reconstruct the stake and prize mechanisms so that Casinos can have higher stakes and higher prizes. The proposal would see stakes in Casinos change from £2 to £5 and prize money increase from £4000 to £10000. This change has been proposed after stakes and prize money recently doubled in pubs, and arcades now have the same maximum stake as Casinos.

However they did reject the idea of a super casino in Blackpool as they claimed tax rates were too high compared to other places where they have been built, such as New York and Singapore. They also called for tax regulations on online betting and gambling sites, many of which are not based in the UK, therefore they would hope this change would see money kept in the UK.

They also called for local authorities to decide whether they want a casino in their area, and to decided where it goes. Although this will not increase the number of casinos, it will again maximise the profit from the ones that already exist.

The Evangelical Alliance will be presenting their evidence in November, highlighting concerns for the ethical dimension of gambling, whether the local communities have enough say in the planning and licensing of gambling activities and protecting children and vulnerable people from the adverse effects of gambling.

Giving evidence in the same session as the Evangelical Alliance on 22 November will be the Methodist Church, the Salvation Army and Quaker Action on Alcohol and Drugs. Attention will also be given to the age of the National Lottery, the effectiveness of the gambling commission and gaming machines.