UK Legislators Determined to Expand Black Market Gambling as New Online Limits Proposed

By | November 25, 2021

The idea of severely limiting what players can spend when gambling online is not a new concept in the UK, or some other countries. Capping online bets at £2 ($2.67) is likely to create larger black markets.

Iain Duncan Smith
Iain Duncan Smith speaks before Parliament. Smith is one of many political figures pushing for severe caps on online gambling spending. (Source: The London Economic).

The goal of these spending-limit plans is to reduce problem gambling. However, what certain MPs are proposing in the country now could produce the exact opposite effect. The Telegraph was contacted by the legislators and some campaigners, including Lord Grade, former BBC chairman and Tory leader, Iain Duncan Smith, and 18 bishops. Over 160 individuals were behind the letter, which is pushing for a £2 per-bet cap on all online bets.

The group collectively warned that more than 55,000 children aged 11-16 are problem gamblers. They referenced data from Public Health England, which asserts that the social and economic consequences of gambling could include family breakdowns, various health problems, unemployment, and serious financial problems, including bankruptcy.

According to the group, the economic and social cost of gambling is at least £1.27 billion ($1.69 billion) per year. Limiting the way people can bet online, they assert, would reduce that cost and the impact on society.

It is time for the Government to live up to the Conservatives’ 2019 manifesto commitment to a review of gambling laws, levelling up, social justice and a better future for us all,” said the MPs and their peers.

The timing of the letter isn’t a coincidence. The UK is currently reviewing its gambling laws and regulations, with a new framework expected to come early next year.

The group asserts that implementing limits on gambling is the only way to prevent compulsive gambling. However, according to data from the UKGC, “the overall problem gambling rate is statistically stable at 0.4% (year to June 2021).” In addition, the “moderate risk rate” is down 50%, from 1.4% to 0.7%, from June 2020 to June 2021.

This begs the question of why there seems to be such a huge push to ostracize the gambling industry in the country.

Too Much Restriction Won’t Solve the Issue

If the proposal becomes law, UK gamblers may be restricted to spending £100 ($133) per month. The changes also include a limit on online betting of PS2 and the requirement that gambling operators apply strict affordability checks for their customers to ensure they don’t spend more than they can afford.

Ministers called on the government to end the “VIP” schemes offered by bookmakers to customers in their local areas. Campaigners call such schemes and enticements “immoral.” They argue that gambling companies shouldn’t be allowed to offer high-spending customers special incentives to increase their spending.

The reality is, however, that gamblers are going to gamble. By capping the amounts able to be wagered, certain individuals prone to spending more on the activity are likely to target unregulated platforms. In the end, this does little to protect them from themselves.

Over the past several years, the UK Gambling Commission (UKGC) has levied some huge fines against operators that were not following the rules. However, the regulator was there to intervene and put the operators back on the right path. If an increase in black market gambling arises because of policies that are too strict, there won’t be anyone to regulate those platforms.

The political group, in its letter to The Telegraph, argued that the excessive costs of gambling are leading to “family breakdowns” and financial issues. While these problems exist, they also exist in association with other consumer activity, such as alcohol and prescription drugs. However, these are still play a role in society and are not banned. Nor do lawmakers try to implement a “two-drink-a-day” limit.

The UK has repeatedly instituted more control over the gambling industry in the country. This, despite the fact that gaming is a major source of revenue at a time the UK is passing through a transition.


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