Adopting a puritanical view of gambling may seem like an honorable position to take, however, the implications of some of the proposals dragged out and advanced by anti-gambling activists will be far-reaching.
It’s hard to underestimate the ramifications if the government seeks to hit the bookies.
Perhaps the most unpleasant proposal is the introduction of affordability checks for bettors. These general checks would mean that anyone in the mood for a flutter would have to provide bank statements, payslips and other financial details in order to place a bet.
Research has indicated that implementing these controls would cost the industry around £100,000,000.
In 2019, it was estimated that over 100,000 people worked in the UK gaming industry. With companies facing such large bills, it is inevitable that this will lead to job losses.
Indeed, a study found that 95% of people would not share their bank details to place a bet, thereby killing the market. This would be disastrous for the betting industry and the people who depend on it for their income.
It’s hard to fathom that any government, let alone a Conservative government, would be willing to put Britain’s working people out of work, to appease prudish activists bent on ending gambling for good in this country.
Besides, are we really suggesting that the government is going to force people to go to Pôle Emploi during a cost of living crisis? Are we really going to increase the burden on the Department for Work and Pensions and, therefore, on the taxpayer?
Similarly, in 2020/21, at the height of the pandemic restrictions facing sport, tax revenues from betting and gaming amounted to nearly £2.8bn. Clearly a substantial amount for the Treasury, which would undoubtedly be reduced in the face of these punitive proposals.
Where would the Treasury compensate for this loss? I fear this will lead to revenue from other sources – at the expense of the taxpayer.
Moreover, it was only last year that the Prime Minister wrote the foreword to the Build Back Better Highstreets policy document. In this, in his own words, he clarified that “wherever you live, you should have a local main street that you can be proud of.”
I can tell you now that these proposals will lead to the closure of the high street bookmakers.
William Hill, Ladbrokes and Betfred have a combined total of over 5,500 stores on high streets nationwide; they would disappear almost overnight, leaving yet another store vacant in our already decimated central business districts.
Who would be proud of that?
The UK is a global leader in betting and gaming, home to some of the world’s largest companies pioneering technology. It’s an industry we should be proud of, not penalize.
After all, these proposals are designed to help less than one percent of players who have a problem with the hobby.
With this in mind, I therefore urge the Department of Culture, Media and Sport to exercise caution when considering the results of the Gambling Act review.