Examination of Witnesses (Questions 240-460)
SIR ALAN BUDD
TUESDAY 2 JULY 2002
240. There is a difference between Bingo and, say, gambling on the machines which does have a resemblance to going to a racetrack to gamble, namely both of those are social occasions and, in addition to either winning or losing, as you say more likely losing, they are having a nice time and therefore there is an extra dimension, whereas just standing mindlessly feeding money into a slot machine is a very different kind of activity.
(Sir Alan Budd) I think it can be a very different kind of activity and, you will remember very well, the evidence of where problem gambling arises does suggest that it is more strongly associated with machines than with these other forms of activity that you have described.
241. I was very interested in the motivation for this report because it had been put to me that it was Treasury led and I thought it could not be, but actually it is Treasury led according to point 3: the loss of tax revenue, the Government can see in it sights off-shore placing of bets and also the realisation that there is a lot of behind the scenes back door stuff going on, albeit of small scale. Would you like to comment on that?
(Sir Alan Budd) You say it is Treasury led
242. It has been put to me that it was. I pooh-poohed it but, by your response, actually the loss of tax revenue would suggest that the Treasury has an input
(Sir Alan Budd) The original documents launching the review body referred to the revenue issue; so that was not in any sense hidden that that was one of the reasons that was given. It certainly was not Treasury led in that sense; the Treasury was not a particularly interested party in all of this; the Home Office was the lead department and then
243. It is very interesting now because the sort of figures that might be extrapolated from this would suggest significant revenue for Treasury.
(Sir Alan Budd) That may be the case but, as far as I am concerned, it is completely coincidental.
244. That is interesting. Your point 2 was that the existing legislation was designed to be restrictive; is that a bad thing?
(Sir Alan Budd) I did not start with any views on whether this was a good or a bad thing.
245. I was not suggesting you had.
(Sir Alan Budd) Our conclusions of the report are that the level of restrictions was unnecessary and
246. I am asking you if it is a bad thing that something is restrictive.
(Sir Alan Budd) To me, all restrictions have to be justified. I personally start from the presumption of human freedom; that is my starting point. Then I look at any restriction and ask, what purpose does this restriction serve? There are of course a vast number of areas in which restrictions are justified but one must always ask the question and one must certainly do that with the restriction of gambling as with any other activity. Of course, after our report, this is still a very highly restricted activity. It is hardly a free activity at all. So, we are leaving an enormous element of restriction in place which we think is justified, but it must be justified.
247. And you are removing an enormous amount of restriction as well.
(Sir Alan Budd) No.
248. Can I point to the figures: 0.6 per cent and 0.8 per cent, which is the problem gamblers, which is significantly less than in places like Australia and New Zealand, which is more than double, which have less restrictive practices. Is this not a reason for keeping restrictive practices?
(Sir Alan Budd) It is a reason, when one deregulates, for trying to ensure that the sorts of problems that have arisen elsewhere do not arise here, and a large part of our report of course is concerned with that and the largest part of the report, as I am sure you know, is about problem gambling.
249. But it is not addressed.
(Sir Alan Budd) Certainly it is addressed
(Sir Alan Budd) A great many of our proposals are
251. The solutions are not addressed. What is the solution for problem gambling? Nobody so far has been able to give us the solution. I would be very surprised if you say you have it because nobody has been able to give us the solution. Everybody says that there is not enough evidence yet as to the causes of it.
(Sir Alan Budd) Part of our proposals are of course to try to discover more about the nature of normal and abnormal gambling. There is certainly a great knowledge gap there, that is absolutely true. We made a number of proposals in the name of social responsibility which impose a specific duty on those who provide gambling to ensure that, as far as possible, the results of that activity are not adding to problem gambling and, in particular, we give the Gambling Commission this responsibility. That is completely new. The Gaming Board, which is of course an absolutely excellent institution, has not had to concern itself with that matter. Industries have done so on a voluntary basis and we are trying to put this right at the forefront of the gambling industries' concerns.
252. The Board is concerned that the Government have rejected your proposals for AWPs not being permitted in outlets such as cafe«s, fish and chip shops, mini cab offices, all those sorts of places.
(Sir Alan Budd) I am sorry, the Board?
253. Yes, the Board in its written evidence to us.
(Sir Alan Budd) Do you mean the Gaming Board?
254. Yes, the Board is concerned at the Government's rejection of the proposals for limiting AWPs in small outlets.
(Sir Alan Budd) They have rejected our proposal on that matter.
255. What is your thought on that?
(Sir Alan Budd) Again, this is where I move to the personal area and the Board will be giving evidence to you after me.
256. I am looking forward to it!
(Sir Alan Budd) What I think about this is that we were being cautious against the possibility. We felt the evidence was convincing enough to be cautious where the use of gaming machines by children was concerned. So, in pursuit of caution, we made a number of recommendations which did include the proposal that gaming machines, which do seem to be a potentially most difficult part of this activity, should be removed from areas like cafe«s and so on where children could wander in casually and play on them. We did that in the name of caution. The Government, no doubt also wishing to behave cautiously, do not believe that that degree of caution is necessary. Yu will of course have the chance to ask the Minister about that.
257. It is something that I will certainly put to the Minister, but I would therefore suggest given your responses that to remove restrictions which we know in other countries has had a detrimental effect while not actually behaving in the way regarding AWPs that we have just discussed actually opens up an area of danger.
(Sir Alan Budd) I am not sure whether you are accusing me of misbehaviour or
258. The Government actually, based on what you have just said
(Sir Alan Budd) That is fine, they must speak for themselves.
259. But you would not agree with that
(Sir Alan Budd) My answer was that we were cautious in this regard. The DCMS have chosen to be less cautious and I cannot possibly answer for them.
260. Thank you very much indeed and thank you, Sir Alan, for an extremely constructive session for which we are grateful.
(Sir Alan Budd) Thank you. May I say, on a personal matter, Chairman, I do hope I will have an opportunity to entertain you in the near future in your old college.
Chairman: Invitation accepted!