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Gambling-related Harms

Volume 736: debated on Thursday 20 July 2023

I know that the hon. Member has campaigned on this issue for a number of years, and I thank her for her ongoing engagement. Our White Paper sets out measures to tackle products and practices that can drive gambling-related harm, and they include financial risk checks, stake limits on online slots and the new statutory levy.

Loot boxes in gaming are unquestionably a slippery path to normalising gambling. This week’s announcement on loot boxes nowhere near fulfils the commitment made in the 2019 Conservative party manifesto. With 55,000 young people aged 11 to 16 already classed as problem gamblers, and tens of thousands more considered at risk, why are the Government neglecting future generations by failing to tackle and prevent gambling disorder at its root?

We have gone a long way in the White Paper to do exactly what the hon. Member says, and we have committed to ensuring that video games can be enjoyed safely by everyone. We convened a technical working group to improve protections on loot boxes, and it has published new guidance this week, which we welcome. If that guidance is implemented, it has the potential to meet our objectives, but I assure her that we will closely monitor what the industry does, to ensure that it implements the guidance in full. We will provide an update in 12 months and keep the option of legislating open.

We would be helped in our fight against gambling-related harm if we had better data on the number of people taking their own lives as a result of gambling debts. There is a Bill that has cleared all its stages in the Lords that would get coroners to record this information. It would not cost the Government a penny. Might my right hon. Friend lend his support across Government to those responsible for that Bill, so that we have the data to know what is happening and bear down on this terrible issue?

My hon. Friend is right to highlight the tragic consequences for some people. One of the toughest parts of this role has been meeting the families who have been affected in such a way. I will look at the issue he raised, but the new statutory levy enables us to have the funding to do detailed research, which could contribute to that as well.

Affordability checks and stake limits for online gambling are of course welcome, but given that the Government have already spent three years reviewing and consulting on gambling laws, why do we need further consultation on what levels they should be set at? There should be no more unnecessary delays. I ask the Minister, what exactly have the Government been doing all this time?

I am sure that the hon. Lady would not want me to endanger the implementation of the policies in the White Paper if we did not follow due process, which is what we are doing at the moment. We will be starting the consultation very soon, and we are on course to implement everything by the summer of next year, as we promised.