BGC blasts SMF's "arbitrary and random" deposit cap proposal

5 August 2020

UK industry body the Betting and Gaming Council (BGC) has hit out against the suggestion of what it called an “arbitrary and random” monthly deposit cap, suggested in a report from think tank the Social Market Foundation.

The report, published today, recommended operators be subject to a £100 (€111/$131) “soft cap” on deposits per month, after which due diligence checks would hae to be made before more funds can be deposited.

In addition, it called for slot games in Great Britain to have mandatory stake limits of between £1 and £5 and for the white label system to be abolished.

The report also recommended replacing the Gambling Commission to be replaced with two distinct regulatory bodies bodies: the Gambling Licensing Authority to handle licensing and compliance issues and the Gambling Ombudsman to handle customer protection.

The BGC said it is important that any review of the Gambling Act is evidence-led, and that it did not believe the proposed “soft cap” fit this criteria. In addition, it said no other sector faced comparable limits.

“It is vital that the Government’s review is evidence-led and avoids the dangers of unintended consequences,” a BGC spokesperson said. “Some 30 million people enjoy an occasional bet, whether that’s on the Lottery, bingo or sports and gaming, and the overwhelming majority of them do so perfectly safely. We already carry out robust and improved affordability checks, and regularly intervene on customers to ensure they gamble within their means.

“We disagree with the suggestion of an arbitrary and random low cap on spending and can think of no other area of the economy where the government determines how much an individual can spend.

The BGC added that harsh measures may cause players to move to unregulated sites, where player protection is minimal.

"We must avoid measures that see safe regulated betting being driven to unregulated, offshore, illegal black market operators online who don’t have the same checks, interventions and high standards that apply to regulated BGC members.

“Measures must be proportionate, evidence-led and fully thought through so as not to jeopardise the 100,000 jobs the industry supports or the over £3 billion in tax revenues it generates for the Exchequer.”

However, the BGC also welcomed other aspects of the report, such as the claim that problem gambling rates have remained stable and a “kitemark” to be displayed by operators that have not breached the Licence Conditions and Codes of Practice (LCCP).

“We welcome the fact that, in contrast to the siren voices of prohibitionists who claim problem gambling is high and is increasing, this report rightly states that there is no evidence of a rise in problem gambling and that levels have been stable around 0.7% for nearly two decades,” the spokesperson added.  

"Although we do support many of the measures contained in the report, the authors share the BGC’s determination to raise standards and we welcome the important acknowledgment that our members have taken action to drive higher standards, especially during the Covid-19 crisis.

“We fully endorse the concept of a British gambling kite mark as a sign of operators’ commitment to fairness, quality and integrity and the BGC would welcome the opportunity to lead on the development of this concept.”

Meanwhile, a Gambling Commission spokesperson said the regulator would study the report, adding that it welcomed all additions to the debate around the future of gambling.

“We are aware of this report and will study its recommendations,” the spokesperson said. “We welcome all contributions to the current debate around gambling and are focussed on responding next month to the recent reports from the House of Lords Select Committee and the Public Accounts Committee.”

Ladbrokes Coral operator GVC Holdings said the report showed that a government review of the Gambling Act was needed soon.

“The report underlines the need for the government to bring forward its review of the Gambling Act and implement a robust regulatory regime for the betting industry, that is fit for the digital age,” GVC said.

Although the report suggested stake limits for online slots and a £100 monthly “soft cap” on deposits before enhanced due diligence checks, GVC said it was still pleased to see the report recognise that a degree of player freedom is needed.

“The report’s acknowledgement that individuals must have personal freedom in how they spend their money is welcome, a view that is supported by a recent poll of GVC customers which found over 70% of them believe they should decide how much money they should spend on their leisure time, rather than the Government,” GVC said.

“We also welcome the report’s focus on ensuring all operators in the UK hold a full gaming licence and unregulated operators are no longer tolerated,” the operator added, referring to a proposed ban on white label agreements.

The operator also pointed to its previous record on gambling-related harm, but said it was important to avoid unduly punishing those gamble safely in this fight.

“GVC has already been working hard to improve the tools customers can use to manage their betting, and step in when we see people at risk of harms,” it said.  “We recognise more can and should be done, however it is vital that any new regulation must strike the balance between protecting the small minority of customers who are at risk, without pushing the 99% of customers who gamble safely and within their means, into the arms of illegal operators that offer no safeguards or protections.

“As a major contributor to UK plc both as a significant employer and as one of the largest twenty taxpayers, GVC is committed to working with the government to develop a gambling industry that works for everyone.”