The matter raised is the responsibility of the Office of Communications as independent regulator. Accordingly, my officials have asked the chief executive of Ofcom to respond directly to my hon. Friend. Copies of the chief executive’s letter will be placed in the Libraries of both Houses.
The horse race betting levy recognises the unique relationship between that sport and the betting industry. Horse racing is a sport whose primary purpose is to provide a betting product. In that respect, it is a symbiotic relationship not shared by other sports, except perhaps greyhound racing which has a separate arrangement with bookmakers. Consequently, the Government currently have no plans to introduce a betting levy for other sports.
[holding answer 24 May 2006]: The Gambling Act 2005 sets out the definitions of different types of gambling activity, and provides that it is a criminal offence to offer facilities for gambling without authorisation. It would be inappropriate for the Gambling Commission to duplicate these provisions through the introduction of licence conditions.
The Commission does, however, have powers under section 79 of the Act to impose conditions on operators which relate to the manner, nature and circumstances of licensed activities (including lottery style betting games), should the Commission consider that there is a regulatory need to do so.
We have received many representations on this issue from gambling operators, trade bodies, and from Members of Parliament.
We will be publishing our proposals for gaming machine stake and prize limits under the Gambling Act 2005, for consultation, in the near future. This will give everyone with an interest an opportunity to comment on the proposed stake and prize levels that will operate from September 2007 onwards.
The stakes and prizes that will apply from September 2007 when the Gambling Act 2005 comes into force were set out at the time the Gambling Bill was introduced into Parliament in October 2004. This remains Government policy.
These proposals involve raising the maximum stake on Category C gaming machines (currently all cash amusement with prizes machines) from 30p to 50p, and raising the maximum stake on Category B3 and B4 gaming machines (currently jackpot machines in bingo premises and registered clubs respectively) from 50p to £1.
While the Gambling Commission has no jurisdiction over betting operators licensed outside Great Britain, it is continuing to build upon its co-operative relationships with overseas gambling regulators.
The Government have worked with sports governing bodies to develop a 10-point plan which facilitates information sharing between sports bodies and betting operators. So far 11 sports bodies have signed up to the voluntary plan and an increasing number have a Memorandum of Understanding with betting operators allowing for the sharing of information about suspicious betting patterns or individuals betting with those operators here or abroad.