Is gambling in the UK about to change?

The Gambling Related Harm All Party Parliamentary Group delivered a report 12 months in the making in June. While the APPG has no direct power, it can wield influence at the highest levels of government that could see some of its recommendations adopted into law.

It could mean that major changes are coming to the UK’s gambling industry, which took an estimated £14.3bn in 2019. There are over 30 recommendations in the final report covering nearly every aspect of the gambling industry. It also includes suggestions for new regulation during the Covid-19 pandemic.

The big one for sports betting is the ending of online in-play betting. Ad breaks during high-profile football matches, race meets or other sports events are dominated by commercials tempting punters to place bets on outcomes of contests as they happen. They feature live odds of things like next scorer, who will win the next set or even things as innocuous as who will get the next corner.

The APPG would not ban in-play bets outright but would restrict them to being placed either in betting shops or on the phone. So no in-play bets could be placed on a smartphone or laptop. The Group cites Australia as an example of a country that currently has these rules.

Those ads would also be banned if all recommendations are followed. This would be across all media, not just television or online, and includes billboards, radio ads and print ads. The report cites children as being especially vulnerable to these ads and even goes as far to cite the FIFA videogame as a venue where ads should be banned.

Another major change that could come out of this report is limiting the amount of money people can stake, win and deposit at any one time. No amount was specified in the report though, so it is hard to judge if this would affect the habits of most punters.

While most of the measures, aimed at harm reduction, will not be met with glee by punters, there is one recommendation that many may get behind. The report suggested that a ‘single sign-on’ mechanism be developed. Users would create a profile, and could include things like self-imposed deposit limits, that would be use across all gambling sites. No need to sign-up separately with different providers to get better odds. This could be more of an issue if the recommended stricter rules on age verification the report also makes are taken up.

Now, is this all likely to happen? The APPG has no legal power but it wields considerable influence. It was key in getting fixed-odds betting terminal stakes limited to £2. Certain things, like in-play betting or general sports betting advertisements, seem too established to be done away with. The ad revenue supports many networks and outlets, who could fight hard against such a ban.

However, if even a small number of the less drastic measures recommended are put into place, it could make for a very different UK sports betting scene very soon.