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Gambling Review White Paper

Volume 703: debated on Thursday 18 November 2021

I thank and commend the hon. Member for her energetic campaigning and leadership on this issue over many years as chair of the all-party parliamentary group for gambling related harm. We had a constructive meeting, along with my right hon. Friend the Member for Chingford and Woodford Green (Sir Iain Duncan Smith) and a Member for a fine constituency in Scotland—the hon. Member for Inverclyde (Ronnie Cowan)—just yesterday. We are in the process of preparing a White Paper that will set out our vision for gambling regulation in the coming months. I look forward to working closely with members of the APPG on this issue in the weeks ahead.

The recent Public Health England report into the impact of gambling harm found that at-risk gamblers were twice as likely to gamble online than the rest of the general gambling population, so can we be assured that the forthcoming gambling White Paper will protect those most vulnerable to gambling harm by ensuring that restrictions to online stakes are introduced at the same level as those to on-land stakes?

The hon. Lady is absolutely right to refer to those who suffer acute harm. Yesterday I met many people whose relatives have committed suicide, or who have lost their homes and whose families have been destroyed, to discuss the issue. I agree with the PHE report that online gambling can often be a lot more pernicious and addictive than in-person gambling. We will certainly be looking at that. We are acutely aware that the restrictions introduced to land-based stakes for fixed odds betting terminals could be applied online in some way, and are carefully studying how that could be calibrated.

Will my hon. Friend look seriously in the White Paper at the abusive use by gambling companies of VIP rooms, through which companies deliberately target those who are gambling massively and losing massively to encourage them to gamble more and lose more? It is an immoral practice. Will he make certain in the White Paper that the Government will deal directly and immediately with this issue?

I thank my right hon. Friend again for our meeting this week. I agree that actively encouraging—indeed, even inciting—people to gamble more without reference to affordability or their ability to pay is a damaging practice. We certainly intend to address that through the White Paper.