The government will soon publish the long-awaited results of their review into gambling legislation. Following a consultation that closed more than a year ago, it is now anticipated that their future plans will be published in the coming weeks.

The Evangelical Alliance has long worked for gambling laws that protect those most vulnerable and most likely to suffer damaging consequences. The current framework regulating gambling was passed into law in 2005, and we have been involved since long before that. We campaigned against proposals for super casinos, which were ditched at the last minute. We pressed the government to address the problem of Fixed Odds Betting Terminals, where players could lose thousands of pounds in one session – and the government relented and reduced the stakes in line with other gambling machines.

It is now time for a thorough overhaul of the regulatory régime to acknowledge the harm caused by problem gambling and to put necessary measures in place to protect customers. The gambling industry is not – as they would like to suggest – like any other leisure sector. The more customers lose, the more the companies profit, and that means strict regulation is essential to guard against pernicious innovation that finds ways for customers to spend more than they can afford and return to chase their losses.

Ahead of the publication of the long-awaited review, and amid speculation that there are still forces within the government pressing to water down or ditch the review altogether, here are four areas where the government need to take urgent action.



The last 17 years since the Gambling Act were passed has seen a vast increase in the amount of gambling that takes place online. This alone means that the previous framework is outdated and needs to be replaced. However, this also means that more can be done through technology to protect against gambling-related harm. We want to see the government introduce affordability checks.

There are two primary ways to approach this, either through so-called smart checks’ which work on a polluter pays principle’ (where forms of gambling more likely to cause greater harm are dealt with more stringently and with tougher checks). The problem with this is smart checks are hard to do and could take a very long time to introduce. Instead, the preferred option is to place a limit on either expenditure or loss, after which, gamblers would have to go through a process such as a credit check to ensure they could afford to lose what they are staking. Proposals would place this at a level which doesn’t affect the vast majority of gamblers but, for example, does address those who lose more than £100 a month.


At the other end of the spectrum of online innovation are areas that should be curtailed by new regulation. This includes VIP or inducement schemes that draw people in through free bets, or entice them to return through offers and enhanced odds. As one person told the Guardian: The more you bet, the more you’ll get given free bets and the more likely you give it straight back. It keeps you coming back.”

We want to see an end to such schemes and tighter regulation of offers and inducements.


Gambling advertising is one of the highest profile areas that the government are expected to address in the forthcoming proposals. What they announce must be meaningful and not just symbolic.

Much attention has been on football shirt sponsorship, and that is one area that needs addressing with many major football teams having gambling companies as their primary sponsor – in the last season, 9 out of 20 Premier League teams. While at present, gambling sponsors do not appear on children’s replica kits, that doesn’t prevent them being very visible on players’ or other adults’ shirts. Also, even though betting companies agreed not to air adverts from five minutes before kick off until five minutes after the final whistle, restrictions on advertising during matches do not restrict other marketing efforts – such as pitch side adverts being fully visible throughout the match.

We would like to see action on a wide range of sponsorship and marketing arrangements, including the use of sports figures in adverts and social media posts from players advertising gambling products and companies.

Funding of research, education and treatment

The gambling industry currently pay voluntary contributions towards funding research, education and treatment (RET). By holding the purse strings, they hold levers of influence over what is considered and what is done.

The 2005 Gambling Act contained provision for the government to introduce a mandatory level to fund RET, but this has never been enacted. It is time for the government to take the levers of funding away from gambling bodies and establish fully independent research, education and treatment.