UK's Liberal Democrats urge responsible gaming rethink

9 October 2019

Centrist political party the Liberal Democrats has waded into the ongoing debate on responsible gambling in the UK, calling for a complete overhaul of the gaming sector’s approach to tackling responsible gambling.

Most notably, it is calling for the slogan “When The Fun Stops, Stop” to be scrapped, claiming that it may be exacerbating what it calls a “gambling crisis” in the country.

The party’s calls come as doubts grow as to how effective the slogan, which was launched by the industry’s self-regulatory body Senet Group in 2015, actually is in encouraging responsible play.

In August researchers at the University of Warwick conducted a study which concluded there was no statistical difference in how likely subjects were to bet when the message was shown and when it was not.

"There is now enough proof that the crass 'When The Fun Stops, Stop' slogan is not working, and it could be exacerbating the national gambling crisis,” former Member of Parliament John Leech said. “It's time to scrap the slogan because let's be honest, by the time 'the fun stops', you are already dangerously addicted.”

Leech, who served as MP for Manchester Withington between 2010 and 2015, and currently sits as Leader of the Opposition for Manchester City Council, said it was time for a total overhaul of player protection standards.

"Gambling addictions wreck relationships, families and people's physical and mental health – it's never just the gambler who suffers,” Leech said.

"It is becoming increasingly clear that children's wellbeing is also being threatened by the gambling addictions of adults around them,” he explained. “These same children tune in to sporting events which are then bombarded by sinister gambling adverts ⁠— if not overtly, through sponsorship deals.”

Leech served as the Liberal Democrats’ lead for culture, media and sports during its time in government as part of a coalition with the Conservative Party between 2010 and 2015. The party claims that he led the campaign to reduce the maximum stakes on fixed-odds betting terminals from £100 to £2, which came into force from 1 April this year.

He pledged that the party would continue its work “to overhaul the gambling industry by tackling adverts, online betting which encourages 'penny to pound gambling' and marketing”.

It comes as the latest in a series of evidence hearings for the House of Lords’ Select Committee on the Social and Economic Impact of the Gambling Industry held its latest oral evidence session yesterday (8 October).

Formed on 13 June, it issued a call for evidence in July. The committee is examining a number of key issues, such as the current state of the industry, developments in gambling habits – in particular online gambling – and the "gamblification" of sport.

It will also scrutinise problem gambling in the UK, with a view to determining whether the industry is contributing enough towards the research, education and treatment of those suffering from gambling harms.

"I very much welcome renewed scrutiny in the House of Lords today but both Houses have a responsibility to disregard any vested interests and work towards a bold solution,” Leech added. “This crisis will not be resolved by tapping around the edges – urgent action is needed by the government to end the suffering."

Image: Jwslubbock