Peers for Gambling Reform Demands 'Urgent Clarification' on Accessibility Checks

The chairman of the cross-party group Peers for Gambling Reform called on the UK government to provide "urgent" confirmation of its plans to test accessibility for UK consumers.

On the letters page of The Telegraph Lord Foster of Bath questioned a report in the same newspaper claiming that the Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sports (DCMS) would no longer seek to enforce these checks as part of the 2005 Gambling Act revision.

“Urgent action is required and measuring accessibility is key,” wrote Lord Bath. “However, at present, only some companies check to see if customers are playing beyond their means.

“The Gambling Commission has held consultations regarding mandatory accessibility checks for all operators. However, the government now intends to deprive the watchdog of the ability to conduct such checks.

“These are legislative powers that cannot be abolished without passing a law.

“We hope that the Gambling Commission will press ahead with their plans so that vulnerable players do not have to wait many more years for the government to fulfill its election promise to combat gambling addiction,” the expert added.

Earlier this month, Westminster insiders reported The Telegraph, that DCMS will seek to expand its own regulatory powers through the Gaming Commission (UKGC).

A broad review suggested that the DCMS, by taking control of these reviews, would lead to future restrictions being "loosened" or possibly removed from future gambling regulation in the UK, drawing criticism from anti-gambling groups.

Indeed, the industry has changed since John Whittingdale, who had previously spoken out in favor of the industry during the FOBT debate, was appointed to lead the review of the Gambling Act 2005, replacing sports minister Nigel Huddleston.

EGR also understands that former UKGC CEO Neil MacArthur was a proponent of industry-wide accessibility reviews. However, he resigned in March.

The issue of accessibility checks remains contentious for the industry, with many highlighting the potential damage to the UK licensed gambling market and others pointing to the implications for at-risk players.

In March, data from a YouGov survey commissioned by the Betting and Gaming Council (BGC) showed that more than half of players in the UK (59%) would be looking to switch to black market operators if strict availability checks were put in place.

Former Entain CEO Kenny Alexander previously suggested that availability restrictions would be more disruptive to the UK equestrian industry than the Covid-19 pandemic.

Alexander's former employers have recently introduced an accessibility test model for 14 UK brands in preparation for future legislation in this area. Flutter Entertainment also introduces its own 3-step accessibility assessment method.

The UKGC is currently reviewing 13,000 responses to its own accessibility review consultation, which ended in February.