Brits Oppose Mandatory Gambling Limits, Poll Says New Rules May Fuel Black Market

Posted on: March 9, 2021, 02:58h. 

Last updated on: March 9, 2021, 03:18h.

A new poll finds that a slim majority of British voters oppose allowing the UK government to impose gambling limits. 

UK gambling limit betting
Betting shops on a London street are seen here closed. With the brick-and-mortar businesses locked up, many UK gamblers have gone online to gamble. (Image: Daily Mail)

YouGov, a market research and data analytics firm headquartered in London, was commissioned by the Betting and Gaming Council (BGC) to complete the survey. The gaming industry’s preeminent lobbying group wanted to see where Brits stood on a key matter being considered by the Gambling Commission — should Parliament determine how much a person can lose gambling online each month?

Fifty-one percent of the 1,683 British adults polled said they oppose allowing politicians to set arbitrary limits on how much a person can gamble. Only 27 percent said they support such a concept. A larger majority — 59 percent — added that if Parliament further restricts gambling, many players will shift their wagering to unlicensed, illegal gambling networks. 

The UK Department for Digital, Culture, Media, and Sports (DCMS) has been tasked with performing an exhaustive review of the 2005 Gambling Act. The law, which brought online gaming to the UK, has been accused of harming citizens by way of addiction, financial losses, and other societal damages. 

Industry Supports Limits

Betting shops have long lined high streets across the UK. Along with placing a wager on a horse race, soccer match (ahem, fútbol), and various other sports, fixed-odds betting terminals (FOBTs) have allowed the gaming industry to blossom.

FOBTs, a type of electronic slot machine, have come under much scrutiny in recent years. Following a review of the gaming devices by the DCMS in 2019, the maximum bet was slashed from £100 to just £2 (US$139 to $2.78). 

The anti-gambling community scored a major victory with the FOBT change. They’re back for more. 

Gambling critics have proposed limiting an online gambler to losing £100 a month before being subject to affordability checks. The goal, they say, is to make sure a person is not gambling more than he can afford to lose. 

BGC Executive Director Michael Dugher says the industry supports programs that allow gamblers to limit their play. But he argues it shouldn’t be handled by the government.

Limits are good, which is why people betting are strongly encouraged to set their own limits on how much they spend. Affordability checks are also a good thing. But technology enables betting companies to see where customers are starting to display what we call ‘markers of harm,'” Dugher explained. 

The chief lobbyist for the betting industry says those technological capacities currently in place provide better consumer protections than forcing the vast majority of gamblers who play responsibly into invasive auditing. 

Black Market Blossoming

The major overhaul to FOBTs led to hundreds of high street shops closing for good. Many more did so during the pandemic. 

As a result, the illicit black market online is thriving. 

A recent report from PwC estimated that the number of illegal online bets placed in the UK doubled in the last year alone from £1.4 billion to £2.8 billion. The number of players accessing such platforms, PwC believes, surged from 210,000 to 460,000 in the past two years. 

Dugher believes the black market will only continue to grow if monthly limits are placed on gamblers online.