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Gambling Industry Reform

Volume 710: debated on Tuesday 15 March 2022

4. What assessment he has made of the potential merits for the Exchequer of reforming the gambling industry. (906061)

Gambling contributes over £3 billion per annum to the Exchequer. The Government keep gambling duties under regular review to ensure that the sector continues to pay its fair share. The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport is reviewing the Gambling Act 2005, after which the Government will assess the impact of any reforms on the Exchequer.

Analysis carried out by both NERA Economic Consulting and Landman Economics concluded that, given that online gambling is “labour intensive” and predominantly based offshore in avoidance of UK corporation tax, its net impact on the British economy is negative, particularly once the direct cost to Government, estimated by Public Health England to be £647 million, is factored in. Will the Government support the upcoming reviews of gambling regulation—the Minister said it is under active consideration—and welcome any moves to reduce gambling harm and the associated cost to society and the economy?

I know that the hon. Lady is a committed campaigner on gambling as chair of the all-party parliamentary group on gambling related harm. Specific to her point about offshore gambling operators, I am sure that she knows that since 2014 gambling duties have been taxed on a “place of consumption” basis, so offshore operators pay taxes on profits related to UK gambling.

To the broader point of the gambling review, I spoke to the Under-Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, my hon. Friend the Member for Croydon South (Chris Philp), who is leading DCMS’s work on gambling, just yesterday, and I assure the hon. Lady that the Government stand ready to take action where there is evidence that vulnerable people, such as those suffering from gambling addictions, are being exploited by gambling operators.

The term “gambling” covers a broad spectrum of activities. Does the Minister share my concerns that over-zealous regulation of the gambling industry as a whole could lead to some damaging unintended consequences, such as driving vulnerable individuals to the black market, which is completely unregulated, loss of revenue to the Exchequer and damage to the greyhound and horse-racing industries, which employ lots of people?

My hon. Friend makes an important point. There is the basic principle that people should in general be free to spend their money as they see fit. There are about 100,000 jobs in the gambling industry in this country. It is important to ensure that we protect people who are most vulnerable from exploitation, and I know that the gambling review I mentioned is looking carefully at the best way to do that.