Skip to main content

Draft Gambling Act 2005 (Amendment of Schedule 6) Order 2018

Debated on Monday 29 January 2018

The Committee consisted of the following Members:

Chair: Geraint Davies

† Adams, Nigel (Lord Commissioner of Her Majesty's Treasury)

† Brennan, Kevin (Cardiff West) (Lab)

† Crouch, Tracey (Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport)

† Elmore, Chris (Ogmore) (Lab)

† Francois, Mr Mark (Rayleigh and Wickford) (Con)

† Huddleston, Nigel (Mid Worcestershire) (Con)

Jones, Mr Kevan (North Durham) (Lab)

† Lewer, Andrew (Northampton South) (Con)

† Lopresti, Jack (Filton and Bradley Stoke) (Con)

Lord, Mr Jonathan (Woking) (Con)

† Maclean, Rachel (Redditch) (Con)

† Newlands, Gavin (Paisley and Renfrewshire North) (SNP)

† Perkins, Toby (Chesterfield) (Lab)

Smeeth, Ruth (Stoke-on-Trent North) (Lab)

† Snell, Gareth (Stoke-on-Trent Central) (Lab/Co-op)

† Streeting, Wes (Ilford North) (Lab)

† Villiers, Theresa (Chipping Barnet) (Con)

Yohanna Sallberg, Committee Clerk

† attended the Committee

Second Delegated Legislation Committee

Monday 29 January 2018

[Geraint Davies in the Chair]

Draft Gambling Act 2005 (Amendment of Schedule 6) Order 2018

I beg to move,

That the Committee has considered the draft Gambling Act 2005 (Amendment of Schedule 6) Order 2018.

Schedule 6 to the Gambling Act 2005 lists the bodies with which the Gambling Commission may share information, and vice versa, using powers under section 30 of the Act. Gambling Commission licence conditions also require operators to share information with the bodies in the schedule in some circumstances. The list is made up of bodies with functions under the Act, UK enforcement and regulatory bodies, and sports governing bodies.

The last substantive review of the bodies listed in schedule 6 was in 2012. The Government propose to amend it to update the names of some sports governing bodies that are already listed and to add others that meet the criteria, including the UK Anti-Doping agency. The update will help information flow between the Gambling Commission, which regulates all gambling operators selling to customers in Great Britain, and sports bodies. The integrity of sport is paramount. It is important that we make sure the Gambling Commission can share intelligence with sports governing bodies to help protect the integrity of sport and sports betting markets.

Sports betting is a popular entertainment activity for many who enjoy watching sport. Preventing the manipulation of competitions is essential to uphold public trust in sports betting and in the integrity of sport itself. Information sharing plays a central part in preventing corruption domestically and, given that threats can be cross-border in nature, internationally.

The Gambling Commission’s statutory objective includes keeping gambling fair, open and free of crime. The commission’s sports betting intelligence unit receives information and intelligence relating to potential criminal breaches of sports betting integrity, misuse of information and breaches of sports betting rules. That comes in particular from gambling operators which have noticed suspicious or irregular betting patterns. The intelligence is shared with other bodies involved in tackling such issues.

Bodies to be added were required to demonstrate that they had the necessary systems for information management in place, as well as the necessary rules governing betting. Although information can be shared with a body not listed in the schedule, that requires detailed consideration and, potentially, legal advice. All data sharing remains subject to the Data Protection Act, but listing a body in the schedule to the Gambling Act provides a legal gateway to reduce the administrative burden on the commission and the bodies themselves, as well as helping information to be shared in a timely and effective way.

The update is intended to ensure that schedule 6 covers an appropriate range of sports using information-sharing powers as originally intended to support the fight against corruption. The inclusion of UK Anti-Doping aligns with the Government’s approach to protecting the integrity of sport, as set out in the sporting future strategy and the anti-corruption strategy.

A Government consultation on updating schedule 6 ran between November and December 2016. During and after the consultation, the Gambling Commission engaged with governing bodies that had expressed interest in being included. That was to provide advice and to determine whether the information management arrangements would make it possible to include the bodies in the update. The consultation response was published in August last year. Where bodies were not able to be added this time, the commission continues to engage with them and to promote best practice. The intention is to help establish arrangements that will enable more bodies to be added in a future update. In addition, the Sports Betting Integrity Forum’s key priorities include working with governing bodies to facilitate information sharing.

The following organisations met the criteria for inclusion and will be added to part 3 of schedule 6: United Kingdom Anti-Doping Ltd, the Darts Regulation Authority, the Irish Rugby Football Union, the Rugby League European Federation, the Tennis Integrity Unit, Table Tennis England, the golf Ladies European Tour and the International Paralympic Committee. The following bodies will have their names updated: London Marathon Events Ltd, World Rugby Ltd and European Professional Club Rugby.

In conclusion, I thank the Gambling Commission, sports bodies, betting operators and law enforcement for their excellent collaborative work to maintain the integrity of sports betting and to uphold public trust in sport and enjoyment of sport. The regulatory regime we have in the UK is recognised as world leading, but we can never be complacent. To support that collaborative work and to maintain the UK’s international standing as a leader in the field, I commend the updating of schedule 6 to the Gambling Act to the Committee.

I thank the Minister for her explanation of the draft order. My hon. Friend the Member for Tooting (Dr Allin-Khan) would have spoken in the Committee, but as she is not available, I hope that I can do some justice to what she might have wanted to say.

The debate on this statutory instrument is very timely because there is a strong level of interest in problems associated with gambling. Recently, the professional footballer Joey Barton, who is currently under suspension for betting on football matches—exactly what the draft order is meant to prevent from happening in the sports listed—said that gambling was “culturally ingrained” in the sport and that he thought that 50% of professional footballers bet on matches, in breach of the rules of the Football Association. I do not know whether Joey Barton did an academic study to find that out or whether he was telling an anecdote as a longstanding, albeit highly controversial, professional footballer, but it is quite a stark claim to make.

We are considering a draft order that adds to the list of organisations that the Gambling Commission can consult and share information with about problems that include potential fixing of football matches and other sporting events. In that context, to inform our consideration of whether the draft order would be an effective measure given the scale of what it is attempting to do, it would be quite useful to hear the Minister’s view of that claim by Joey Barton that that sort of thing is endemic and a real problem in our sporting world, particularly in football. Does the Minister think that such a flagrant breach of the rules is happening in the list of sports to be added to schedule 6 of the Gambling Act?

The work that the Gambling Commission and Sports Betting Intelligence Unit do is essential in collating intelligence and identifying suspicious betting patterns and behaviour. The Commission was set up to prevent gambling being a source of crime and disorder, and to ensure that gambling is conducted in a fair and open way. It is there to shield those who fall victim, including children and vulnerable persons, from harm or exploitation. Only through that work being done thoroughly can we help prevent the numerous types of betting fraud. We support the Government’s taking steps to review and expand the range of partners and authorities with which the Gambling Commission can provide and share intelligence.

It is important that when given the opportunity, we stamp out corruption wherever we can, to protect the integrity of the sports that many of us love to watch and take part in, as the Minister quite rightly said. But it seems to us that a much wider look at problem gambling is needed beyond the scope of the draft order. That is an issue that the shadow Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, my hon. Friend the Member for West Bromwich East (Tom Watson), has frequently highlighted. I hope that the Government will take up that leadership beyond the draft order.

I was glad to see when reading through the notes from the consultation that took place last year that the Department reached out to a number of key player associations, licensed gambling operators, sports governing bodies and academics. That sort of engagement is necessary to better reflect the current spectrum of sport governance bodies and ultimately to improve the flow and quality of intelligence. We would like the commission to expand and to interact with and consider governance bodies that represent less traditional sports. The digital age has significantly broadened the gambling sector: it is no longer just traditional sports such as horse racing that are the subject of gambling. There is nothing wrong with a little flutter on the gee-gees, which is a long tradition—my father enjoyed a 10-bob yankee every Saturday down at the bookies—but gambling has grown considerably.

When I was growing up, no one would have considered gambling on a football match beyond, perhaps, filling in the Littlewoods pools every week—or Zetters: other pools were available—yet, irony of ironies, just the other week I watched my hon. Friend the shadow Secretary of State make a speech in a venue with television screens about the intensification of gambling in the digital age, and as he was talking the screen behind him flashed up: “Chelsea to win 2-0: 8/1.” There is an immediacy to gambling that simply was not there before, and that presents a challenge. Online services have made it easier for people to place bets on a wider variety of sports and events 24 hours a day, so we are talking about a very different environment. A quick click reveals that most gaming sites encompass everything from the upcoming winter Olympics to futsal and ice hockey, and it would be prudent of the commission to consider further the diverse range of sports that are now available for gambling for listing in the future.

It is important to acknowledge that online operators are discovering that our rapidly growing digital economy is a lucrative target for online money launderers and other cyber-criminals. Gambling sites have seen a dramatic and sustained spike in attacks and suspicious activity just this year, so I hope that the draft order makes it easier for the Gambling Commission to continue its work to ensure that the highest standards of betting integrity are upheld.

Will the Minister clarify a couple of points? Were any of the bodies that were suggested for addition to part 3 of schedule 6 as part of the consultation not selected for addition? If that is the case, what were they, and why were they not included? People bet on a much wider range of sports these days, and it is in the public interest for us to know whether the Department feels that the governing bodies in some areas are not sufficiently up to speed to be included on the list. Why did the Secretary of State not take this opportunity to include a wider range of sports governing bodies, such as England Netball and British Cycling, which has been the subject of public debate and controversy in recent years? Would the Minister like to make the Committee aware of any concerns about those bodies or others that account for their non-inclusion?

The Government state in point 10.1 of the explanatory memorandum that the draft order

“will reduce overall costs for the Commission”.

I think the Minister provided some explanation by saying that legal fees would be reduced if governing bodies were listed in the draft order, because otherwise information could not be shared with them unless both they and the Gambling Commission got expensive legal advice. I think that was her explanation, but the Government must of course back up such assertions, so what is her estimate of the reduction in the commission’s costs?

The Government go on in the explanatory memorandum to state that the draft order is actually “deregulatory” because of that fact. I do not know whether that is something to do with the necessity of pretending that regulations are not regulations to meet the target of two in and one out, or whatever it is these days, but the draft order is a regulation and the Government say that it will save money. Since they chose to make that point in their own memorandum, the Committee should be told how much money the Gambling Commission is likely to save.

On a more technical point—this is a genuine query—can the Minister clarify, in relation to the draft order’s territorial application, the relevance of where some of the new bodies are established and the extent of their territorial reach? For example, World Rugby Ltd, which is a straight replacement on the list of the old International Rugby Board, is incorporated in Ireland as set out in the measure and has jurisdiction across the globe, including in Great Britain. European Professional Club Rugby is, again, a replacement body. It is established in Switzerland and covers Europe, again including Great Britain.

However, the Irish Rugby Football Union, which is included in the list, is of course established in Ireland only, and to the best of my knowledge it has jurisdiction there. Of course, part of its operation covers a part of the United Kingdom, because in Ireland rugby is played on a United Ireland basis; but paragraph 5 of the explanatory memorandum states:

“The extent of this instrument is Great Britain”

and

“The territorial application of this instrument is Great Britain.”

It specifically excludes Northern Ireland from the application of the measure. Can the Minister clarify the basis on which the Irish Rugby Football Union is included, therefore? I have nothing against it at all, but wonder why it is included among the new bodies to be added to part 3 of schedule 6 to the Gambling Act 2005.

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Davies.

I want to follow up on some points raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff West a few moments ago. I do not have any objection to the proposed amendments to schedule 6, but I share my hon. Friend’s view that this may be a decent opportunity to take a slightly wider look at questions to do with gambling, particularly when we consider which sports are and are not involved, and how widespread betting and gambling are these days. The context for what I am saying is that, if we were not paying full attention in Committee, we would be able to use a betting app to bet on sporting events anywhere in the world. It is also a question of the breadth of the gambling available in such circumstances.

My hon. Friend referred to Joey Barton’s comments about footballers betting on other football matches. While that may be against the rules, and it may be entirely understandable that the Football Association would rule it out completely, it is at least a case of people backing their judgment in an honest matter of skill and knowledge about the event and what will happen. I note that the Tennis Integrity Unit is among the organisations in the schedule. Tennis is a sport that I know a good deal about, and gambling on tennis has had a great deal of attention. I wonder about the responsibility of the Gambling Commission and the betting companies for the integrity of the sport.

I could go on to my phone and bet on whether there will be a deuce in the fourth game of the second set of a match somewhere in eastern Europe between players who may have travelled halfway across the continent to play in a match where they will win £100 in prize money. It does not take a huge amount of imagination to understand why a player might be tempted by the suggestion: “Couldn’t you just see your way, in the fourth game of the second set, to try to make sure it is a deuce?” That would not even be about risking winning or losing: if it got to 40/30, he might put a double fault in. There are temptations attached to something as random and minuscule as that, in the context of a sporting contest when players are playing for very small amounts of money.

My hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff West mentioned the example of netball. Team sports are obviously more difficult to fix, but there are sports—table tennis was mentioned—where it is possible to make individual bets that are obscure in relation to the outcome, and to raise a lot of money on a minor thing. We have heard about footballers deliberately kicking the ball out for a throw-in in the first 10 seconds of a match, or defenders, perhaps, agreeing to give away a corner in the first five minutes. Such things are where betting is going now. It is all very well for the Gambling Commission to say, “We have had a big bet on a certain outcome and then it has come to pass so we want to pursue that person,” but where is the responsibility on the Gambling Commission and the betting companies in terms of the types of bets they are taking? We have the review into fixed odds betting terminals for totally different reasons, but where is our responsibility as legislators to say, “There are certain types of gambling. We should look at how some of these bets are happening and consider whether they are in the best interests of the sport and the industry”? Will the Minister say to what extent the Government are considering the scale and kind of betting that is going on? Many of us like to have a little flutter on sports, but we should consider the extent to which some of those bets are in the best interests of those sports.

The Scottish National party has no problem with the order, which amends the Gambling Act 2005, so I will keep my remarks brief, but I echo the remarks made by the Labour Front Bencher, the hon. Member for Cardiff West. I hope the Minister’s review of fixed odds betting terminals will have given her a different perspective on problem gambling, and I hope she will be open to having the wider discussion on gambling that has been mentioned.

As the Labour Front Bencher said, it is much easier to gamble in a multitude of different ways these days. I am sure we have all had cases of constituents developing gambling problems that have resulted in huge consequences for themselves and their families. The only question I had for the Minister was in relation to the extent of the measure, but the Labour Front Bencher covered that in great detail. I am eager to hear the Minister’s response.

I am grateful to the hon. Member for Cardiff West for standing in for the hon. Member for Tooting. She was kind enough to contact me directly to let me know that she was unable to make the Committee this evening and that the hon. Gentleman would be trying to fill her incredibly high stilettos. He has done an amazing job for a Monday.

I remind the Committee that I take gambling harm incredibly seriously. I think all Members from all parts of the House know that, and it is why we published the gambling review. Colleagues have raised important issues that are contained in the review, whether that is fixed odds betting terminals, advertising or online gambling harms. Those are all matters that I cannot comment on specifically today in relation to the order, but I stress again that I take the issues seriously. We are considering the outcomes of the consultation on the gambling review, on which more will be said in due course.

Will the Minister clarify whether her review will have an opportunity to look at things such as the integrity of sporting events and the kinds of bets that are allowed by the gambling companies, or is it looking purely at harm to punters?

That is about integrity. Within the gambling review, there is a section on in-play betting, in particular the relationship between advertising and in-play betting. There is a slight nuance in my answer to the hon. Gentleman’s question. We are aware of some of the tone and content issues around in-play betting, but the gambling review is not looking specifically at that. The legislation would necessarily look at those issues. I remind the hon. Gentleman that the 2005 Act is a piece of Labour legislation, and I am merely updating it to include a new set of organisations to ensure we have the widest integrity set within sport.

That goes back to the comments from the hon. Member for Cardiff West. Strict rules and regulations are in place for betting on sport, and particularly on football matches. He mentioned recent press reports on Joey Barton and family members and so on, but is important to remember that while we have not seen any evidence around the 50% figure referred to, the Football Association takes such matters seriously. The Professional Players Federation should be commended for its work in educating professional athletes, including footballers.

The FA has banned players and people involved in football from betting on football competitions. The Gambling Commission also looks into such issues and has the power to deal with them. Those rules and regulations are in place, and we clearly need to keep an eye on what is happening.

The hon. Member for Cardiff West mentioned other sports and asked why not all governing bodies in this class have been added. That is because not all governing bodies recognised by the home Sports Councils have the standard of information management that would let the Gambling Commission share information routinely with them. The commission is working to engage those organisations about betting integrity considerations and to promote best practice. However, for this tranche, it was felt that not all sports organisations were necessarily applicable.

It is vital that the commission is regarded as an organisation that treats data with respect. Given that the hon. Gentleman has done much on the digital economy and data protection with the Secretary of State, I am sure he fully understands that point.

I asked specifically about British Cycling, which I was particularly interested in. Was it not included because it is unable to meet those standards?

I cannot answer that question at this point. I will get back to the hon. Gentleman when I know whether there is an answer.

With respect to the hon. Gentleman’s comments on the economic evaluation, an evaluation of the impact of updating schedule 6 was carried out. The measure is not expected to impose any burdens on sports governing bodies. It is estimated that each legal advice request costs about £6,700 if required for the Gambling Commission. That information was provided by the Gambling Commission, but that is only an estimate and every request varies. The burden is lightened by being added to schedule 6, so organisations can share without that legal check, which is the point the hon. Gentleman made.

On territorial extent, I am pleased that the UK is home to many international sports bodies. We have hosted some of the greatest sporting events, including in Cardiff, which hosted the champions league final last year. We should be proud of that. With that in mind, it is only right that all relevant international sports bodies such as the Tennis Integrity Unit, the International Olympic Committee, the International Paralympic Committee and the Commonwealth Games Federation are listed in schedule 6. Tackling corruption and protecting the integrity of sport requires a co-ordinated approach both domestically and internationally.

On the hon. Gentleman’s question about Northern Ireland, the Gambling Commission regulates gambling in Great Britain—it is entirely devolved in Northern Ireland. However, schedule 6 lists a number of international as well as domestic sporting bodies with which the Gambling Commission can share information to tackle corruption and protect the integrity of sport. The commission already shares information with sports bodies based in devolved Administrations, such as the Welsh Football Association. The update will also include World Rugby Ltd and the Rugby League European Federation, which are based in Ireland.

I do not want to labour the point too much, but my point is that it seems entirely understandable that international bodies that operate within Great Britain, such as the International Olympic Committee or whatever, might be part of the list. However, it seems odd that a body that operates entirely outside the jurisdiction of the Gambling Commission was included when the draft order specifically relates to Great Britain, not Northern Ireland. That is the point I was trying to make, but I will not labour it.

Gambling is, in many respects, regulated and taxed at the point of consumption. We have to remember that it is about consumers and protecting the integrity of sport within these shores.

The hon. Member for Chesterfield raised some excellent points around tennis, which I know is a passion of his. I am pleased that the Tennis Integrity Unit is now coming on to the list. We will both remember the scandal that rocked tennis about 18 months ago, which I think exposed the vulnerability of younger players coming through the system, and in those sports he mentioned that do not give the highest level of prizes at the earliest part of the players’ journeys. The Sports Betting Intelligence Unit works incredibly well with operators and federations to keep a watch on those things. Having the Tennis Integrity Unit on board means that we can have much better oversight and control over the sports he referenced, particularly where individuals are concerned.

The hon. Members for Cardiff West and for Paisley and Renfrewshire North made the point that betting has changed. The reality is that betting in sport has increased with the advent of new technologies. Many sports are played in the UK and the wider world. To go back to another point made by the hon. Member for Cardiff West, I do not think it would be proportionate to simply list all those sports in schedule 6. The approach we are taking in the UK is primarily risk based, which has informed the sports bodies being presented for inclusion. That obviously includes tennis. The hon. Member for Paisley and Renfrewshire North also raised issues around integrity and protection.

It is important to remember that millions of bets are placed on sport every day, and a huge amount of work goes on behind the scenes to ensure that the integrity of betting on sport is maintained. The draft order that the Committee is considering will make sure that we update all the regulations to ensure that the sports that we love maintain that high level of integrity.

Question put and agreed to.

Resolved,

That the Committee has considered the draft Gambling Act 2005 (Amendment of Schedule 6) Order 2018.

Committee rose.