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Gambling Act Review White Paper

Volume 829: debated on Wednesday 3 May 2023


The following Statement was made in the House of Commons on Thursday 27 April.

“With permission, Madam Deputy Speaker, I would like to make a Statement about the Government’s proposals for gambling reform.

Gambling is a hugely popular pastime, which has been part of our British life for centuries. Ours has always been a freedom-loving democracy where people are entitled to spend their money how they please and where they please, and millions choose to spend some of their hard-earned money on the odd bet on a match or a race without any problems. This popularity has seen our betting companies balloon in size and become big contributors to both our economy and, in the taxes they provide, to our public services.

But, with the advent of the smartphone, gambling has been transformed: it is positively unrecognisable today, in 2023, from when the Gambling Act was introduced in 2005. Temptation to gamble is now everywhere in society, and while the overwhelming majority is done safely and within people’s means, for some the ever-present temptation can lead them to a dangerous path. When gambling becomes addiction, it can wreck lives: shattered families; lost jobs; foreclosed homes; jail time; suicide. These are all the most extreme scenarios, but it is important to acknowledge that, for some families, those worst fears for their loved ones have materialised: parents like Liz and Charles Ritchie, whose son, Jack, took his own life while travelling in Hanoi after years of on/off addiction. Gambling problems in adults have always been measured in terms of money lost, but we cannot put a cost on the loss of dignity, the loss of identity and in some cases the loss of life it can cause.

We need a new approach that recognises that a flutter is one thing, but unchecked addiction is another. Today we are bringing our pre-smartphone regulations into the present day with a gambling White Paper for the digital age.

Before I go into the details of how we remove some of the blind spots in the system, I pay tribute to my right honourable friends the Members for Croydon South (Chris Philp) and for Maldon (Sir John Whittingdale) and my honourable friends the Members for Mid Worcestershire (Nigel Huddleston), for Folkestone and Hythe (Damian Collins) and for Sutton and Cheam (Paul Scully), as well as my predecessors my right honourable friends the Members for Hertsmere (Oliver Dowden), for Mid Bedfordshire (Ms Dorries) and for Chippenham (Michelle Donelan), who have all led the work at various stages, and in particular the Minister for sport, gambling and civil society, my right honourable friend the Member for Pudsey (Stuart Andrew), who has driven this work in government over recent months. There have also been some outstanding contributions to the debate from individual Members of this House, including my right honourable friend the Member for Chingford and Woodford Green (Sir Iain Duncan Smith), my honourable friends the Members for Tewkesbury (Mr Robertson), for Shipley (Philip Davies), for Stoke-on-Trent North (Jonathan Gullis), for Stoke-on-Trent South (Jack Brereton) and for Stoke-on-Trent Central (Jo Gideon), and the honourable Members for Swansea East (Carolyn Harris), for Inverclyde (Ronnie Cowan) and for Sheffield Central (Paul Blomfield), and from the other place.

The proposals encapsulated in our blueprint draw on that knowledge and combine it with the best available evidence and insights in the 16,000 submissions received in response to our call for evidence. That is what this White Paper will deliver, with proposals for reform that cover six key areas. These proposals build on our strong track record of acting in punters’ interests through measures such as: cutting stakes on fixed-odds betting terminals in 2019; banning credit card gambling and reforming online VIP schemes in 2020; introducing new limits to make online slots safer in 2021; and upgrading rules on identifying and intervening to protect people showing signs of harm in 2022.

First, we want to tackle some of the challenges unique to online gambling. Campaigners have told me that one element that differentiates problem gambling from many other forms of addiction is that it often takes place in secret, so we will force companies to step up their checks on when losses are likely to be unaffordable or harmful for punters. Companies must already intervene when they know that a customer is spending vast sums, but this change will better protect those least able to afford even small losses. We also plan to bring online slots games more into line with bricks-and-mortar equivalents by introducing a stake limit on online slots of between £2 and £15, subject to consultation.

Secondly, we know that many addicts find that each time they break free from the temptation to gamble, they are drawn back into the orbit of online companies with the offer of a free bet or some free spins. To help to stop problem gamblers being bombarded, the Gambling Commission has beefed up its rules on online VIP schemes—which has already resulted in a 90% reduction in the number of those schemes—and will now consult on ensuring that bonus offers are not being deployed in ways that only exacerbate harm.

That brings me to the third item, which is our regulator. We can all agree that we need a robust, data-savvy and proactive regulator that can stand up to the giant companies that it regulates, so my department will ensure that the Gambling Commission has the appropriate resources to support this work and deliver the commitments in the White Paper. No one should be denied an innocent flutter, but the public should not have to bear the cost of treatment when a punter becomes an addict. One important element that will be introduced—backed by campaigners and also by many in the House—is a statutory levy to turn the tables on problem gambling, requiring gambling companies to fund more ground-breaking research, education and treatment.

Fourthly, we need to redress the power imbalance between punters and gambling companies when things go wrong. People who find that they have lost out owing to operator failures need to know that all is not lost. We will work with industry and the Gambling Commission to create a non-statutory ombudsman who will give customers a single point of contact.

I know that the fifth element—doing more to protect children—unites the whole House. Gambling is an adult activity, and it must remain an adult activity. That is one of the main reasons why I applauded the decision taken by the Premier League a fortnight ago to remove gambling sponsorships from players’ shirt fronts in the coming seasons, and it is the reason why we are ensuring children cannot engage in any form of gambling either online or on widely accessible scratchcards.

Finally, we know that the status quo disadvantages casinos, bingo halls and other traditional premises in comparison with their online equivalents. A number of assumptions that prevailed at the time of the 2005 Act now appear increasingly outdated, so we plan to rebalance regulation and remove restrictions that disadvantage the land-based sector.

Nearly every Member of Parliament will have met constituents whose lives have been blighted by gambling harm. The online world has transformed so many parts of life, and gambling is no exception. It is our responsibility to ensure that our rules and regulations keep up with the real world so that we can protect the most vulnerable while also allowing everyone else to enjoy gambling without harm. I look forward to working with every Member of the House to bring our gambling rules into the digital age, and I commend this Statement to the House.”

My Lords, colleagues will know that I hail from Brighton—for film noir buffs, the home of “Brighton Rock”, with its famous racecourse scenes. My city has excellent amusement arcades, two casinos, a Premier League football team—rather good this year—, a horserace track, a dog track and a variety of other activities and sports that have strong links to the gambling sector.

We all like a flutter, and a night at the bingo or a weekend at the races are traditional British pastimes. Clearly, none of us want to change that. However, the publication of this important White Paper comes in part because of the relentless efforts of those with personal experiences of problem gambling. As gambling has moved into the digital age, far too many people have suffered from outdated regulation which has left them or their loved ones, friends and family exposed to significant and sustained gambling-related risk. People will have lost many thousands of pounds because existing safer gambling initiatives were not properly implemented or enforced, sometimes over several years. Many will have fallen into desperate debt, not just for themselves but, of course, impacting on family life. Tragically, some have paid an even bigger price. We should reflect on the fact that lives have been lost completely and unnecessarily.

While this White Paper may not contain all that campaigners hoped for, I pay tribute to them today for their tenacity. We have waited a significant amount of time for this Statement. The Government launched their review of the Gambling Act 2005 back in December 2020. Yes, these matters are complex; yes, the department received a significant number of responses, and yes, there is a balance to be struck, as many people enjoy gambling in moderation. Of course, the sector itself supports in excess of 100,000 jobs. But why has it taken so long for the Government to bring these proposals forward? We have seen multiple Ministers with responsibility for the review; at my last count, six Gambling Ministers and four Secretaries of State for Culture, Media and Sport have promised this White Paper imminently. We have had only a marginally smaller number of Prime Ministers: three, possibly four. So, can the Minister blame those who feel that their suffering has not been a priority for the Government? Can he understand the concerns of some in the sector that uncertainty has been allowed to last for such a long time?

Despite the delays, we welcome the fact that various measures been announced, with many being things that we have long called for and campaigned for. We are glad that the White Paper recognises the significant difference between bricks-and-mortar bingo halls and low-risk gambling and gaming centres, and the unique dangers of the online world. We welcome proposals relating to how online gambling sites will operate, the introduction of a levy and the expansion in the remit of the Gambling Commission. If properly implemented, these changes can make a significant difference to the amount of gambling-related harm people encounter, and improve the services available to those who have been affected by it.

However, and as ever, we need to see some more detail. While it is important that some measures are subject to further consultation, we hope it will not take another three and a half years for further decisions to be made. In another place, the Minister said that many of the changes in the White Paper will be brought forward via statutory instruments to speed up implementation. That is welcome, but is the Minister able to comment on how many SIs will be required and when we are likely to see them?

For matters that require primary legislation, can we expect to see a Bill in the next Session? The White Paper contains no fewer than 30 references to “when parliamentary time allows”—hardly an indication that these matters are being prioritised.

While I am asking questions, could the Minister have a go at answering some which were not addressed by his Commons colleague last week? Will the Gambling Commission be given additional resources? The National Audit Office previously raised concerns about the body’s capacity. If its remit is being extended without appropriate resourcing, that problem can only get worse. Who will set rules in relation to new affordability checks? Will they be set independently of the sector or will it be up to providers? What other initiatives, if any, are the Government looking at for under-18s who encounter loot boxes and other in-game features, which may not qualify as gambling but exhibit or promote similar qualities and behaviours?

Once again, we welcome this important White Paper. Reducing the harm caused by gambling is vital. We are glad that this will seemingly be done in a way that does not disadvantage the lower-risk premises that sustain communities across the country, especially in rural and coastal towns. Far too much time has already been wasted, so we hope that the Government and the Gambling Commission will now move quickly to implement the key reforms and consult smartly on the rest.

My Lords, I declare my interest as chairman of Peers for Gambling Reform. We have known since the advent of the smartphone, giving everyone a casino in their pocket, that gambling legislation and regulation were out of date. Online gambling and wall-to-wall TV and radio advertising, coupled with online marketing—not least inducements such as a free bets and VIP offers—have led to thousands of lives being ruined.

For too long the Government have failed to hold big gambling companies to account—companies that, as we saw from the recent William Hill case, prioritise their annual £14 billion profits over customer care and that get the majority of those profits from problem gamblers. We have at least 350,000 such problem gamblers, including almost 60,000 children. This has, in turn, ruined the lives of around 2 million other people. Tragically, over 400 people a year take their own life because of gambling. Of course, it has also cost the nation billions of pounds.

The Government promised reforms back in 2019, but this White Paper has been constantly delayed by chaos, infighting and—as we have just heard—six gambling Ministers since the review was launched. So hundreds of people in that time have tragically taken their own life and thousands more have seen theirs devastated. None the less, the proposals in the White Paper are important and welcome steps in the right direction. At last, they are based on the recognition that gambling should be treated as a public health issue.

They respond directly to the key measures proposed by Peers for Gambling Reform and other campaign groups. Measures recommended by your Lordships’ Select Committee on gambling some three years ago included light-touch affordability checks, stake limits online, a statutory levy—so that all gambling companies contribute fairly and adequately to research, education and treatment—more effective redress mechanisms for individual gamblers and further limits on advertising and marketing. Online gambling products are designed to be addictive, with features such as high stakes and prizes, fast speed of play and the illusion of player control. We strongly welcome proposals to address these issues.

Does the Minister agree there should be parity online with, for instance, stakes in land-based venues, so that casino slot limits are set at £2? It has already taken too long, as we have heard. We should be implementing these and other proposals. What is the timeframe for consultation on these measures and when will they actually be in place?

In relation to affordability checks, given that the average household disposable income is £500 a month and the industry itself classifies gambling more than £75 a month as high spend, can the Minister explain why the White Paper’s proposed unsustainable loss trigger is 10 times that amount?

Given that the White Paper acknowledges that online gamblers use accounts with several different companies, why do the proposals consider only the “possibility” of a single, cross-company approach? Should there not be a single, independently run system of affordability checks?

We strongly welcome the proposals for a statutory levy. However, the White Paper is silent on the detail. Does the Minister at least agree that it should be a smart levy, based on the polluter pays principle, so that those that cause the most harm pay the most? How much money do the Government want to see raised?

We understand that primary legislation is needed to introduce a fully-fledged ombudsman, so we welcome the proposals for interim improved player redress. Will the Minister commit to introducing the necessary legislation to go even further as soon as possible?

We also welcome proposals to address some of the gambling companies’ marketing activities, such as free spins, free bets and bonuses. However, we are extremely disappointed that very little is being done to reduce the way in which we are all bombarded by gambling advertising. The Premier League’s voluntary decision to phase out gambling logos on shirt fronts is surely an acknowledgement that advertising is harmful—although, of course, you will still see gambling advertisements around the grounds, in matchday programmes and even on players’ shirtsleeves. There is clear research showing that advertising leads to people starting to gamble, leads existing gamblers to gamble more and leads those who have stopped to start again. Why would the industry spent £1.5 billion a year on marketing if it was not to boost its profits? Other countries are taking action to ban or restrict gambling advertising. The majority of the British public want us to do the same. Why is more not being proposed in this country?

Like the noble Lord, Lord Bassam, I say that my biggest concern is the delay in implementation. Can the Minister confirm that there are to be at least 12 separate consultations requiring the Gambling Commission to have no fewer than 30 workstreams? How long must we wait for the outcome of all this work? The review of the Gambling Commission’s funding is not planned until next year: will this not further delay the commission recruiting extra staff to do the necessary work, causing further delay?

Overall, while there are some welcome proposals, it is absurd that so many are subject to further consultation, given that there is already a wealth of information and research evidence and there has been plenty of time to look at the details of these measures. Further delay will lead to more lives, families and communities being ruined. Surely the Government should stop dithering and implement.

My Lords, I am grateful for the broad welcome in both noble Lords’ remarks for this work. I am conscious that I have stood at this Dispatch Box many times and promised that it will be coming soon, so it is a relief for me to be able to change the script and talk now on some of the detail—and I know it will be a delight to your Lordships’ House as well.

The noble Lord, Lord Bassam, began by talking about the importance of the industry to seaside towns and communities. As I am from a seaside town, I share his sentiments on that. We are conscious, in taking the action that we have, that we are talking about an industry that provides many jobs and contributes to the UK economy, and in which millions of people participate with no harm.

We are conscious too of the huge changes we have seen in gambling since the 2005 Act, not least with the advent of the smartphone and the availability of gambling opportunities for people in their pocket, as well as the changed nature of the advertising and exhortations to play. That is why the consultation we held deserved careful thought, and why many people fed into it. We are very grateful to all who did. It is why it is right that gambling Ministers and Secretaries of State—there has been more than one during the process—have had time to interrogate that information and bring it forward. I am grateful to your Lordships’ Select Committee and to Peers for Gambling Reform, who I met earlier with the noble Lord, Lord Foster, and to others who have fed into that process and who continue to do so.

The noble Lord asked why further consultation is needed. The White Paper sets a clear strategic direction, based on the call for evidence and the consultation we held, but the Government have a duty to follow due process and to consult on detailed proposals, including their impact. There is a difference between the consultation that led to the White Paper, on what to do and whether to do it, and the consultation now on how to do it. That will make sure that we get the details right in complex areas such as the levy, and minimise the risk of legal challenge, which would only cause further delay and frustration to people such as the noble Lord.

We will work with the Gambling Commission, the industry and others to implement these proposals as swiftly as possible. We will ensure that the consultations have timeframes that are no longer than needed for fair consultation. The consultations will be published by the summer, and we intend all the main measures to be in force by next summer. We expect to make announcements on some measures within weeks.

I turn to the questions about the Gambling Commission. As I said when last speaking on this topic at the Dispatch Box, the Gambling Commission has shown that it can regulate the industry effectively and stand up to the biggest operators when required—it is taking more direct action. Of course, we work with the commission regularly: Ministers meet its chairman and chief executive on a regular basis. The review took a close look at the commission’s powers and resources, and the White Paper sets out a range of actions that will be taken.

On resources, the Secretary of State’s Oral Statement in another place addressed the point raised by the noble Lord, Lord Bassam. She said that

“my Department will ensure that the Gambling Commission has the appropriate resources to support this work and deliver the commitments in the White Paper”,—[Official Report, Commons, 27/4/23; col. 942.]

but we will continue to discuss that with the Gambling Commission.

On stake limits, anyone can walk into a betting shop and play anonymously, but all online gambling is account based. Operators have a detailed understanding of the person playing and whether they are at risk of suffering harm. We will consult on a limit between £2 and £15 and on options including a lower limit for people under 25, who the evidence suggests can be at a higher risk of harm. We look forward to the information that will be fed in there.

On affordability checks, we considered a range of data and the Gambling Commission’s advice in deciding the proposed thresholds for consultation. This included the current levels of harm, estimates of disposable income and current spending patterns. Light-touch checks start at £125 net loss per month, to help protect people for whom even relatively modest losses could be harmful. They escalate to more detailed checks at a higher level. But these proposals are subject to consultation by the Gambling Commission. I know that will frustrate noble Lords who want to see swift action, but we want to make sure that we get this right and take into account the challenges here. We are mindful of the impacts that this has on people and their families.

As noble Lords have heard me say, while doing that work we have not delayed taking the action we can take in the meantime: we have cut the stakes on fixed- odds betting terminals, banned gambling on credit cards, brought in reforms to online VIP schemes, introduced new limits to make online slots safer, and upgraded rules on identifying and intervening to protect people who show signs of harm online. We want to tackle some of the challenges that are unique to online gambling. I look forward to continuing to work with noble Lords, with more to get our teeth stuck into now. I am grateful to them for their work so far.

My Lords, I welcome unequivocally the direction of travel of this White Paper. How could I do otherwise, when all the Government’s recommendations were among those of your Lordships’ Select Committee on gambling harms, which I had the privilege of serving as chairman?

I heard what the Minister said about consultation. This reminds me of the great saying in the film industry, “Hurry up and wait”, when you get to the location and everybody is standing around, ready, but nothing happens. We are ready to go with this. None of the recommendations I saw in the White Paper requires primary legislation; they can be got on with. I heard what the Minister said about the need for consultation, but there were 60,000 responses to the consultation that led to the White Paper. How long will it take to have more consultations? That is a concern.

My overriding concern is that the track record of the Gambling Commission hitherto has been very dilatory. A lot of the toxicity in the gambling sector was due to the Gambling Commission being asleep on the job in those days. It has certainly improved its performance, but I seek assurances from the Minister that its feet will be held to the fire in a way that they have not been hitherto, given the need to reduce harm as soon as possible. I am sure that the message from the House at the end of this session will be: please get on with it now.

I had the pleasure of serving on your Lordships’ committee that looked into this matter, under the chairmanship of my noble friend. I am pleased to say that the more than 50 recommendations of its report have been taken forward in this work. We want new protections to be in force quickly. As your Lordships’ committee, and my noble friend, pointed out, many of these new protections do not require waiting for primary legislation. We will bring forward changes through Gambling Commission licence conditions for operators and through secondary legislation. For measures that require primary legislation, that will be when parliamentary time allows.

The commission has taken a more interventionist and aggressive stance. In 2022-23, operators were required to pay more than £60 million in penalties, with William Hill recently paying a record £19.2 million because of its failings. The commission is taking the action we need, and Ministers meet its chief exec and chairman regularly to continue to discuss that.

My Lords, I remind the House of my interests: I am a trustee of GambleAware, I am on the advisory group of the Behavioural Insights Team, I am a vice-chair of Peers for Gambling Reform and I also served on the Select Committee. There is lots to welcome. I do not want to go through every issue, but one that I am concerned about is the position of young people who are tempted into gambling through some sports, particularly football. There is simply not enough in the White Paper that deals with that.

From research, we know that nearly half of 11 to 17 year-olds report seeing gambling adverts on social media at least weekly. We know that half of children’s sections in football matchday programmes feature gambling sponsors. Anybody who goes to football on a regular basis knows that the whole game has been almost taken over by the gambling industry: you cannot go to a match without having it in your face. What the Premier League will do, welcome as it is, is far too partial and small, and it is not for all of football. We need to do this so that many young people are not led into things that they then cannot control. Nothing in the White Paper helps us with that.

I am grateful to the noble Baroness—we had the opportunity briefly to discuss this with some officials earlier, and I know that she will continue to take the opportunities to do that as we implement this. She is right to point to the importance of sponsorship in sport and its impact on children. With the reforms we have made to advertising that has the greatest appeal to children, we have taken action in this area.

The most prominent branding on players’ kits is of course on the front of their shirts. It is not just what people see on the television; it is on the shirts that young supporters buy and wear. So we welcome the action taken to remove that; it is the most effective restriction to break the association. The White Paper sets out further detail: sports bodies are working together to design and implement a cross-sport code of conduct to raise standards for gambling sponsorship across the sector. There is detail in the White Paper and more work to be done.

My Lords, I have two questions for my noble friend the Minister. I congratulate him on finally producing the White Paper, which has 256 pages. However, there are two bits missing, so to speak, the first of which is about how these policies will be subject to parliamentary oversight. It is not clear how the Gambling Commission will receive policy decisions from the Government and how it will be accountable to DCMS and Parliament. Secondly, careful reading of the White Paper reveals that, “when parliamentary time allows”, the Government will replace the requirement for the Gambling Commission’s fees to be subject either to the Secretary of State’s approval or to secondary legislation. Does that mean that the Gambling Commission will be able to set any fee it wishes without any oversight from Parliament? The Gambling Commission has not covered itself in glory in the last few years, and it will have to raise its game if it is to take on these significant responsibilities. I declare that I am a member of the All-Party Parliamentary Racing and Bloodstock Industries Group and that I own a horse, which I hope to put a bet on when it runs next month.

The precise design of the levy will be decided by consultation, following which we will introduce the levy by secondary legislation, affording an opportunity for debate in your Lordships’ House and in another place. The Act is clear that all spending on the levy must be approved by DCMS and His Majesty’s Treasury. We do not direct the Gambling Commission on its regulation of gambling more widely—it is an independent regulator—but we work closely together on matters pertaining to this review, and DCMS Ministers will continue to be involved as financial risk checks are developed.

My Lords, I declare my interest as an adviser to Betway, as declared in the register. I join in welcoming the White Paper. At a time when over 22 million people enjoy a bet each month and when problem gambling has fallen to 0.2% from 0.3% the previous year, can the Minister elaborate on the measures being taken to promote a level playing field for the betting and gambling industry? More specifically, what measures are being taken to reduce the unregulated black market, where there are no protections for young children, no affordability checks, no ombudsman and no tax levied?

The noble Lord is right and, as my right honourable friend the Secretary of State set out in her Statement in another place, we are conscious that this is something that millions of people do for enjoyment with their own money and without harm. We are also conscious of the significant changes to gambling since Parliament last legislated on this matter in a substantial way through the 2005 Act. That is why we held the consultation, have taken action and are carrying on with that work in the meantime. The noble Lord is also right to point to the dangers of the black market. We are very mindful of where people will turn if we do not get this right.

My Lords, I declare my interest as a member of the executive of Peers for Gambling Reform. I welcome the contents of the White Paper on gambling, which, at last, takes us forward in helping those trapped by addiction to gambling. However, I was extremely disappointed to see that gambling advertising continues unabated; it is virtually impossible to avoid. TV advert breaks all include the dubious benefits and enjoyment of gambling. Similarly, radio stations are peppered with adverts for the large sums of money that can be claimed for the price of a £2 phone call. Can the Minister say why that invidious advertising has not been tackled in the White Paper?

We have been led by a close assessment of the latest evidence on the impact of advertising, which suggests that there is little evidence to show that exposure to advertising leads directly to harmful gambling. However, we recognise that it can have a disproportionate impact on those already suffering harm, and our aim therefore is to tackle aggressive practices. Robust rules are already in place to ensure that advertising is socially responsible and that it cannot be targeted at children, as I mentioned earlier. New rules were introduced recently to strengthen protections for children and vulnerable adults. Targeted restrictions on advertising are just one part of our wider approach to protections, which also includes making products safer and introducing financial risk checks.

My Lords, there is much to be welcomed in the White Paper, but I share the concerns expressed by the previous speakers, including, in particular, the timetable. What I welcome in the White Paper—and, in doing so, I declare my interest as a member of the advisory committee of the Money and Mental Health Policy Institute—is that it recognises that the harm caused by gambling is psychological as well as financial. We need to understand better the relationship between gambling and poor mental health. It is bidirectional: gambling leads to mental health problems; people with mental health problems have problems with gambling.

The White Paper identifies the need for better research, particularly longitudinal research and research into the causal relationships involved. It is a shame that the Secretary of State did not include a reference to the psychology of gambling in the original Statement, so can the Minister say something about that? There is also the issue of treatment. If we establish the principle that the polluter pays, there must be an important role for the gambling industry to fund the development of a treatment, which is so clearly needed to help those caught in its grasp.

I mentioned some of the work which has already been taken forward to help vulnerable people. The noble Lord is right to point to people with mental health difficulties and the differential impact that gambling can have on them. Through some of the action we have taken on VIP schemes and other schemes, we know that when addicted people break free from the temptation to gamble, they are drawn back into the orbit of online companies with offers of free bets or free spins, so that is another area in which we are taking action. The research continues, and it will continue to inform the approach we take. The latest evidence available was fed into the review we have concluded, but, as further research is conducted, we look forward to analysing it too.

My Lords, I refer to my interest as the chair of GambleAware. Like many others, I too welcome the publication of the White Paper and the greater provision of protections from harms caused by gambling. People in the most deprived neighbourhoods are more than twice as likely to experience gambling harm than those in the least deprived; and, despite being less likely to gamble, those from minority communities are far more likely to experience gambling harm than those from white British majority groups. These disparities of harm show how important it is to ensure that gambling harm prevention and treatment are treated as a serious public health issue. However, tackling this effectively as a public health issue requires collaborative working across central and local government, the NHS and the third sector. It also requires long-term strategic planning and secure, long-term funding, including, for instance, the training and recruitment of specialist staff. The current unfairness and uncertainty—as well as the distractions and, frankly, the jockeying for position associated with the current voluntary funding arrangements—have been obvious and have persisted for too long. So, while I welcome the Minister’s assurance that the consultations will be concluded as swiftly as possible, I ask that thought be given to whether the statutory levy, which will allow for the certainty required to tackle gambling harms, might be one of the provisions introduced prior to next summer. We simply cannot wait that long.

I pay tribute to the work my noble friend does with GambleAware in this important area. We welcome the efforts we have seen from the industry to increase contributions to research, education and treatment, but it is vital, as she says, that the system provides long-term funding certainty for organisations that are delivering crucial services, and that the money is completely trusted. We know that the NHS and some researchers will not take money from the voluntary levy, for fear of being compromised by the industry. So, we will consult on how the levy is constructed and how the funding might be directed. As the Gambling Act requires, it will be collected by the Gambling Commission, with spending signed off by the Treasury and DCMS. As I said earlier, we will launch a detailed consultation this summer on the details of the statutory levy, and our priority is that sufficient funding is available and being used effectively where it is needed most.

My Lords, I echo the concerns that have been expressed about advertising, particularly the susceptibility of youngsters to it, but I want to raise a different question. Can the Minister explain the rationale for increasing the number of gambling machines, which are already deeply unpopular with local authorities, require more policing due to the antisocial behaviour associated with them, and often, as was said by the previous speaker, are targeted at poorer areas?

Submissions to our call for evidence were clear that online slots are likely to be the highest risk products, hence the work outlined in the White Paper addressing the risks of those and other products. Restrictive regulations on the number of gaming machines in a venue no longer make sense when it is possible to use a smartphone to gamble anywhere, 24/7. In fact, they can increase harm by making players reluctant to take breaks. What is important is the quality of supervision and monitoring that customers receive in land-based venues. We are maintaining and strengthening the protections for customers that are required in these venues, and we are still requiring operators to offer customers different types of gambling opportunities.

I refer the House to my entries in the register of interests, including concerning analysis of the sector’s economic impact on communities across the UK. What will be the Government’s criteria for the success of the single customer view pilot, and how long does the Minister expect that analysis to run?

I cannot give the noble Lord precise answers to that, but I will write to him with the details I am able to furnish at this point.

My Lords, while I welcome most of the White Paper, why was there only scant and brief reference in it to the National Lottery and society lotteries, which are an incredibly important part of raising money for charity, particularly society lotteries, which raise a great deal of money for good causes in local areas? They face a major disadvantage compared to the National Lottery because of the limits placed on them: for example, the current legal limit for society lotteries is a maximum prize of £25,000 or 10% of the draw proceeds, plus a strict annual limit. There are even tighter limits on smaller society lotteries. Why can we not bring society lotteries in line with the National Lottery, so as to encourage more local people to support these really good local causes?

My noble friend is right to point to the importance of society lotteries for fundraising, and indeed of the National Lottery. As Minister for Heritage, I have the privilege of working with the National Lottery Heritage Fund, which distributes many millions to excellent causes across the United Kingdom. The National Lottery is unique and has its own regulatory framework, with player protection at its heart. There are bespoke levers for player protection purposes, licence conditions, the Gambling Commission’s duties and powers and conditions of approval for individual National Lottery games. Evidence shows that National Lottery games are associated with the lowest risks of problem gambling of all gambling products considered, but we have still raised the age for taking part in the National Lottery to 18, to make sure that we continue to afford the protections to the youngest players which all noble Lords want to see.