Daniel Lewis
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Date Published:16 Nov 2020 Last Updated:27 Jul 2021

The Gambling Act 2005 – is a legislative overhaul on the horizon?

Betting, Gambling and Gaming

The Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, Oliver Dowden MP, had been expected to make a call for evidence on the review of the Gambling Act 2005 this month, although more recent reports suggest this will now be postponed until the New Year. The much anticipated review comes in the wake of two Parliamentary reviews into gambling harm.

The All Party Parliamentary Group on Gambling Related Harm (APPG) published its final report in June this year and the House of Lords Select Committee’s inquiry into the Social and Economic Impact of the Gambling industry followed in July. These two reports have been long overdue and have made clear an overview of the Gambling Act 2005 is necessary.

The Gambling Act 2005

The Gambling Act 2005 (the Act) was designed to provide regulation of the gambling industry and one of its key objectives was to ensure gambling was conducted in a fair way. The Gambling Commission (UKGC) was established to regulate gambling companies and pursue the objective of ensuring those in the industry would operate fairly. The act also set out a number of licence provisions that must be adhered to in order to obtain and maintain a gambling licence in the UK, which included the “Social Responsibility Code” (SRC) and should provide protection for vulnerable gamblers. The Act was created at a time when online gambling was nowhere near as prevalent as it is now and technology (including the use of mobile phones for gambling) and the industry generally has moved on drastically. As such, the law and regulations are now increasingly out of date.

The Gambling Commission

Whilst the concept of a regulator should, on the face of it, provide for effective regulation of an industry, there are, in our opinion, deficiencies in the legislative framework and the powers and remit of the Gambling Commission, which has resulted in inadequate protection or enforcement options for vulnerable individuals. The Gambling Commission can receive complaints about gambling companies which have breached the Social Responsibility Code and fine or otherwise sanction a betting operator, but this often requires multiple complaints about the same company and, even then, they are usually unable to order that compensation be paid back to those individual gamblers that have suffered as a result of breaches. Instead, betting operators are more often required to ‘divest’ themselves of associated profits (often to charity), and can have stricter conditions imposed on them. A recent example is that of BGO Entertainment, GAN plc and NetBet.

Independent Betting Adjudication Service (“IBAS”)

When a customer has a dispute with a betting operator, they will often be directed to IBAS, which, having received a written submission with evidence will make a decision on the dispute. Whilst this can be useful for disputed transactions or disputes concerning unpaid winning, IBAS does not deal with disputes relating to breaches of the Social Responsibility Code. Once again, those who have suffered from gambling related harm are left unable to pursue this as an avenue to pursue betting operators for breaches of their licensing objectives.

eCOGRA

Formed in 2003, eCOGRA is an independent body, which provides an adjudication or mediation service for online gambling disputes. They also provide testing for online software along with self-regulatory certification services. Whilst measures such as these appear to be in line with the Social Responsibility Code, eCORGA themselves outline that they, as an ADR service, deal with contractual and transactional disputes and that Responsible Gambling disputes should be referred to the UK Gambling
Commission. As is the case with IBAS, eCORGA does not provide an effective means of adjudicating upon disputes concerning the Social Responsibility Code for customers.

The APPG and House of Lords Recommendations 

Taking all of the above into consideration, the reports of both the APPG and the House of Lords bring a welcome change in momentum to the gambling industry at a time when the APPG concedes gambling addiction is now a public health issue, with wide reaching impacts on families, communities and the NHS. Some of the key recommendations include:

  • The banning of VIP schemes and inducements;
  • A complete overhaul of gambling regulation in the UK;
  • A new Gambling Act fit for the digital age;
  • The imposition of a duty of care for breaches of the Social Responsibility Code and liability for losses suffered from those breaches;
  • A Gambling Ombudsman; and
  • The banning of gambling advertising in sports.

The call for evidence will hopefully take the above into consideration and be the start of a process which sees a comprehensive
reform of gambling law in the United Kingdom, along with the implementation of a statute and regulatory body that can effectively protect vulnerable people from gambling related harm.

Where does this leave affected gamblers and how can Ellis Jones help you?

At present, the only realistic means for a gambler who has suffered as a result of a breach by a betting operator is to either pursue a complaint to a betting operator, or otherwise make a claim via court proceedings.

Ellis Jones has a specialist betting and gaming disputes team to assist anyone who feels they have been treated unfairly by gambling firms and/or lost money as a result. We have experience of dealing with and resolving matters in a number of different ways, and have been successful in recently recovering circa £2.5million for clients in relation to betting and gaming disputes. If you think that you have suffered losses as a result of a breach by a betting operator then please contact us on 01202 525333 or via email at bettingclaim@ellisjones.co.uk to discuss your case and how we may be able to assist you in recovering your losses.