Gambling Harm—Time for Action Contents

Chapter 5: Gambling-related harm

The scale of the issue

262.The Gambling Commission, in its 2020 annual report on Gambling participation in 2019: behaviour, awareness and attitudes,296 defines problem gambling as “behaviour related to gambling which causes harm to the gambler and those around them. This may include family, friends and others who know them or care for them.” The Commission uses two measures to estimate the prevalence of problem gambling. The first is a survey conducted by NHS Digital, but recent figures are available only for England since questions were not included in the surveys for Wales and Scotland. According to Health Survey England 2018, 2.7% of adults were considered low-risk gamblers (gamblers who experience a low level of problems with few or no identified negative consequences), and a further 0.8% were classed as moderate-risk gamblers (gamblers who experience a moderate level of problems leading to some negative consequences). But 0.5% of respondents were classified as problem gamblers who gamble with negative consequences and a possible loss of control.297

263.The Commission also tracks problem gambling data using its telephone survey, which acts as a more regular and up to date measure for identifying any changes in problem gambling trends. Respondents are categorised as either a problem gambler (0.6%), moderate-risk gambler (1.2%), low-risk gambler (2.7%), or non-problem gambler. The Commission believes that the Health Survey provides “the most robust estimates of problem and at-risk gambling due to the use of a high quality random probability sampling approach [and] a large sample size”.

264.The Government’s written evidence, submitted in September 2019, is based on the 2016 survey, and their estimate is that:

“0.7% of the adult population, or approximately 340,000 individuals, are problem gamblers … confidence intervals are relatively broad, but we can be 95% confident that the actual figure is between 250,000 and 460,000 adults. Rates of problem gambling have been relatively stable at under 1% for many years. The 2015 Health Survey figures showed a problem gambling rate of 0.8%, but the fall between 2015 and 2016 is not statistically significant.”298

The same survey figures equate to some 1.8 million gamblers who are at low or moderate risk.

265.These figures are sometimes disputed, and the size of the samples criticised.299 It has been suggested that newer methodologies such as expenditure tracking might in future provide more reliable figures on how many people are harmed by gambling. But what is beyond dispute is that there are a very large number of individuals afflicted by problem gambling, and a still much larger number who are at risk of joining their ranks. It is also more common among males than females, and the problems continue at every age, as the following figure shows:

Figure 5: Distribution of problem gamblers in Great Britain by age and sex

A bar chart showing the difference in problem gambling in men and women across different age groups, from 16 - 75+

Source: National Audit Office, Gambling regulation: problem gambling and protecting vulnerable people (28 February 2020) p 18: [accessed 23 April 2020]

266.Problem gambling is still most common among younger gamblers. Among boys of 11–16, 2.0% are classified as problem gamblers; the only age group with a higher percentage of problem gambling is 25–34 year old men, at 2.4%. For girls of 11–16, while the problem gambling rate at 0.7% is lower than for boys, this is over double the rate of any other female age group.300

267.It is also clear that there is considerable geographical variation in problem gambling. It is higher in Scotland (0.9%) and in Wales (0.8%) than in England (0.7%), but the most striking variations are between the English regions. The rate is highest in the North East and in the West Midlands (both 1.1%); in London it is 0.9%, but only 0.3% in the South East and 0.2% in the South West.301 A study commissioned by Leeds City Council in 2016 found that there were approximately 10,000 problem gamblers in Leeds (1.8% of the adult population) and a further 30,000 at risk (5.5%).302 The Leeds figures have to be approached with some caution, since the definitions used were not identical, and research has indicated that the mode of administration of a prevalence survey can affect the results obtained. But on any view they demonstrate a much higher level of problem gambling in Leeds than the average for England.

268.There are other variations in distribution. Research shows that 11.6% of the homeless population experience gambling-related harm, over 10 times the rate in the general population.303 Other research demonstrates that rates of problem gambling among prison inmates in the UK are between 12 and 24 times greater than those recorded in general population surveys.304 Analysis of British Gambling Prevalence Survey data found that those in the lowest income quintile were spending an average of 12–14% of their net income on gambling, compared to only 2% or less in the highest quintile. Problem gambling is more common in those on lower incomes and among black and ethnic minority groups in Britain.305

British Gambling Prevalence Survey

269.All the witnesses who have spoken to us about the available data have without exception criticised the lack of reliable data and the urgent need for more research. The British Gambling Prevalence Survey (BGPS) was a nationally representative survey of participation in gambling and the prevalence of problem gambling in Great Britain. Three surveys were carried out in the series—in 1999 (commissioned by GamCare) and in 2007 and 2010 (commissioned by the Gambling Commission). The aims of the BGPS were to measure the prevalence of participation in all forms of commercial and private gambling (including estimates of expenditure and information on venue); estimate the prevalence of problem gambling and look at which activities have the highest prevalence of problem gamblers; investigate the socio-demographic factors associated with gambling and with problem gambling; and to assess attitudes towards gambling.306

270.Since 2010 the BGPS has not been repeated, but instead the Gambling Commission has funded the regular inclusion of a less detailed set of questions roughly every two years in the Health Survey England (HSE) and the Scottish Health Survey (SHeS). The Gambling Commission has also commissioned separate surveys of gambling behaviour in Wales. These studies have been used together to report on gambling behaviour in Great Britain. However, the reduced length of the questionnaire that can be included in HSE and SHeS compared with the BGPS means that detailed evidence on key topics has not been collected more recently. For example, detail from BGPS about specific engagement in gambling activities, such as frequency and expenditure, was used to produce valuable evidence about the proportion of spend attributable to problem gamblers. Detail has also not been collected on modes of access or types of product preferences. Other topics covered in BGPS included areas such as motivation, attitudes and gambling histories, including initial experience, behaviour change and help seeking, all of which provided valuable evidence for policy makers.307

271.We recommend that the British Gambling Prevalence Survey be reinstated as a first step towards understanding how gambling and gambling prevalence are changing in the UK.

Longitudinal surveys

272.This, however, would only be a first step. Prevalence surveys rely on retrospective and subjective self-reports, and generally cannot be done with more than a few thousand participants at one time. This means that a prevalence survey cannot usefully answer the question of gambling-related suicide or mortality. Even a sequence of prevalence surveys would generally only be considered a repeated cross-sectional design and not a longitudinal study. Methodologies that can survey a broader range of the population, or that can provide objective measures of gambling involvement and harm, should be considered if they emerge.

273.A longitudinal study is a study that tracks the same individuals over time, such as the 1958 National Child Development Study which follows lifetime outcomes for an initial sample of 17,415 people born in England, Scotland and Wales in a single week of 1958.308 By contrast, the three British National Gambling Prevalence Surveys effectively follow a “repeated cross-sectional” design, since new people are predominately sampled at each time point. Both methodologies should be equally effective for some research questions, such as estimating the proportion of the population who are problem gamblers. Longitudinal studies, however, are uniquely capable of probing causal factors such as why some people are more likely to become problem gamblers, since data can be collected from the same person over all stages of the lifespan.

274.Dr Heather Wardle, Assistant Professor at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, stated that an excellent longitudinal study was needed: “If it is developed in accordance with the most robust methodology, the first year would essentially be a re-run of something like the British Gambling Prevalence Survey, so it would provide that up-to-date information and data.”309 Professor Orford added that “we were in the lead internationally at one time. I think we were the first country in the world to have a succession of three proper British National Gambling Prevalence Surveys, and although good data are being collected there are things that a prevalence survey can do that health surveys cannot do.”310

275.The Government has until now not been very much involved in any surveys into the prevalence of gambling-related harm, but told us:

“The government is also committed to creating a better understanding of gambling-related harms so it can determine how best to prevent harms from occurring and support those negatively impacted by gambling-related harms. Public Health England (PHE) has been commissioned by government to undertake a comprehensive independent evidence review on the public health harms of gambling. This is the first ever review of evidence on the public health harms relating to gambling in England … In addition, the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) has commissioned a complementary review of the effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of existing policies and interventions for reducing gambling-related harms. Both reviews will provide an independent review of the existing research in this area to establish what is known, where there are clear gaps in the evidence, and to provide the best available evidence to support national and local policy and decision making in addressing gambling-related harms.”311

276.The Government should commission a longitudinal survey to trace how and why individuals become problem gamblers, the actions they take, the treatment they receive, and the outcomes associated with problem gambling.

The value to the industry: the greater the problem, the higher the profit

277.The value of problem gamblers to the industry is illustrated by the following chart. It is limited to online gambling, and taken from a publication dated August 2018, and some of the figures come from the 2015 Gambling Commission Gambling Addiction Survey. There is however no reason to suppose that the figures have changed significantly. The 2.66% of the population who are low-risk gamblers contribute 17% of the industry’s profits. A further 17% is contributed by the 1.03% who are moderate-risk gamblers, while the problem gamblers, on this measure 0.8%, contribute an astonishing 25%.

Figure 6: Percentage of online gambling industry profits derived from each category of gambler

A pie chart showing the percentage profits from each category of gambler
Non-problem gambler 41.37%
Low-risk gamblers 17.04%
Moderate-risk gamblers 17.10%
Problem gamblers 24.49%

Source: ResPublica, Online Gambling: Addicted to Addiction by Tim Cowen and Phillip Blond (August 2018) p 12: [accessed 23 April 2020] Howard Reed of Landman Economics calculated this data using the number of days and the amount of money spent on online gambling, using Table 13 in PWC prepared for GambleAware, Remote Gambling Research: Interim report on Phase II (August 2017) p 43: [accessed 4 June 2020], and combining this with Tables 3.3 and 4.5 in NatCen Social Research, Gambling behaviour in Great Britain in 2015, Evidence from England, Scotland and Wales (August 2017): [accessed 4 June 2020]

The wider impact of gambling harms

278.The National Strategy to Reduce Gambling Harms 2019–2022312 defines “gambling harms” as “the adverse impacts from gambling on the health and wellbeing of individuals, families, communities and society.” These harms are thus not limited to harms caused to problem gamblers or to those at risk of becoming problem gamblers; other gamblers can also suffer harms and cause harms to others.313 Nor are the harms limited to the gamblers themselves, their families and friends. Other individuals, banks and companies may be unable to recover money lent by them or stolen from them. There will be a wider cost to society for health and treatment, welfare and employment, lost tax receipts, benefit claims, homelessness, the NHS and the criminal justice system.

279.The Gordon Moody Association, with their long experience of treating problem gamblers, wrote:

“The cost to society should not only be counted in terms of the financial cost to an individual. Impact on their loved ones and family members should also be measured in terms of the devastating impact it can have on their own mental health, physical health, family relationships, employment and quality of life—thus demonstrating the wider social impact of problem gambling.”314

280.The cost to individuals is often unquantifiable, but the cost to society can be quantified within very broad limits. In December 2016, the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) published research, funded by GambleAware, on the cost of gambling-related harm to Great Britain. The report estimated that the direct cost of problem gamblers to the public purse was between £260 million and £1.2 billion per year. That report was the first attempt to provide an estimate; the estimates are wide, and the availability of relevant data was limited. The authors are at pains to say that the findings “should not be taken as the excess fiscal cost caused by problem gambling. Instead, they should be taken as an illustrative estimate for the excess fiscal costs incurred by people who are problem gamblers, beyond those that are incurred by otherwise similar members of the population.” Nevertheless this provides a picture of which parts of Government absorb the largest costs of gambling-related harm, as set out in the table below:

Table 9: The cost to the public purse resulting from problem gambling, England and Great Britain


Cost range

England only


Cost range

Great Britain



Hospital inpatient services



Mental health primary care



Secondary mental health services



Welfare and employment

Jobseeker’s claimant costs and lost labour tax receipts




Statutory homeless applications



Criminal justice




Source: Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR), Cards on the Table, The cost to government associated with people who are problem gamblers in Britain (December 2016) p 47: [accessed 22 April 2020]

281.Among the witnesses who emphasised to us the wide effect of gambling-related harms, and the danger of overlooking them, were Dr James Banks, whose research highlighted how family members “experience significant and sustained gambling-related harm across multiple domains. Family members highlight how they need help and support to assist in both addressing their loved one’s problem gambling and their own needs.”315 Dr Wardle explained how “prevalence rates of problem gambling … are measuring problem gambling in terms of clinical symptoms and behaviours rather than the harms (and distress) experienced among the wider population … . Review of problem gambling screening instruments show they do not capture this broader range of harms simply because they do not ask about them all.”316

282.Professor Orford told us that “In the 2010 British Gambling Prevalence Survey 3.8% said Yes to the question: In the last 12 months, has any close relative of yours (including partner) had a gambling problem? That gives an estimate of over one and a half million people in the country as a whole, and it excludes children under 16 with parents with gambling problems.”317

283.The fullest list of associated harms was provided by Dr Carolyn Downs, who told us that from the first UK study exploring the relationship between gambling and debt “the stark conclusion was that for each individual with a gambling problem between four and eleven other people or organisations were directly socially and economically adversely affected.” The study identified the following social and economic impacts:

284.The importance of not ignoring these wider effects of problem gambling was emphasised by Dr Luke Clark, who gave evidence to us by video link:

“The research over the past five or so years has shown quite convincingly that there is a much wider spectrum of harm spread throughout the population. These examples of milder harms that would not traditionally be called symptoms could be an inability to pay debts, sleep difficulties through worrying about gambling, selling personal belongings and items to support gambling, and a range of effects on significant others. There are so many more mildly affected individuals in the population experiencing those harms that the actual majority of the harm in the population is attributable to those individuals who do not meet clinical thresholds.”319

285.We think this a point worth emphasising. Gambling-related harm is often thought of as being limited to problem gamblers and those at risk of becoming so. This research shows that this is far from the case.

A health issue

286.Until relatively recently problem gamblers were regarded as responsible for their own misfortunes. That is no longer the case, as Dr Clark explained:

“Gambling disorder is a recognised psychiatric illness in the American DSM320 and the World Health Organization ICD321 schedules. In both of those current systems, it is recognised alongside substance addictions as the first behavioural addiction. There is a lot of research from neuroscience in particular that supports that classificatory decision for gambling disorder as an illness.”322

287.In February 2018 the Gambling Commission published a paper entitled Gambling-related harm as a public health issue: Briefing paper for local authorities and local public health providers.323 This paper set out the Commission’s position on why gambling-related harm should be considered as a public health issue. Among its aims was to ensure that “Awareness of gambling problems and their symptoms is raised with front line health professionals and other agencies where problem gamblers may present themselves e.g. debt advice.” We explain below324 how in our view more needs to be done to ensure that “front line health professionals”, in particular GPs, are better aware of the prevalence of gambling problems.

288.Among the many witnesses who felt that problem gambling should be seen primarily as a health issue was Gambling with Lives, who thought new legislation “needs to recognise that gambling should be treated as a public health issue, with all the implications that has on product safety, availability, advertising and marketing.”325 One of the speakers at a reception given by Gambling with Lives was Rt Hon Matt Hancock MP, Secretary of State for Health and Social Care:

“I say with total clarity, that gambling addiction is a mental health issue. And as Health Secretary I pledge myself to the actions that are needed to tackle it and support those who need support … We [the Government] are reviewing the Gambling Act because no one had smartphones in 2005 and we’re putting mental health at the heart of that review. I will be personally involved in making sure that review, that will be cross-government including the Department of Health, will take the action necessary to bring the law into the 21st century.”326

The Department with primary responsibility

289.As with all topics of any significance, a large number of departments are involved in the law, policy and practice governing gambling, so that any decisions by the Government on gambling are the result of often complex discussions between departments:

Box 2: Government departments with responsibilities for gambling

Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) for gambling’s association with sport and media (currently lead department)

Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) for health issues

Home Office (which used to have primary responsibility) for the link with crime

Ministry of Justice (MoJ) for the criminal justice system, and with responsibility for coroners

Department for Education (DfE) for education on the risks of gambling

Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) for the business implications for the gambling industry

Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) for the employment issues

Ministry of Defence (MoD) for gambling among the military327

HM Treasury for the taxes raised by gambling.

290.Because of the number of departments involved, there has to be a department with primary responsibility for gambling. Until 2001, that was the Home Office; since then it has been DCMS. A number of witnesses have suggested to us that primary responsibility should be transferred to DHSC. They include Dr Wardle328 and Professor Orford.329 Dr van der Gaag thought that a public health approach was “critical”, and drew our attention to the fact that in New Zealand having the Ministry of Health “playing a central role in driving that strategy forward has been one of the reasons for its success.”330 Marc Etches, the Chief Executive of GambleAware, conceded that there had been “good joint working” between DCMS and DHSC, but thought that “what would really be a gamechanger is the Government of the day recognising that the harms that arise from gambling are a health issue.”331

291.Similar arguments have recently been advanced by the House of Commons Health and Social Care Committee for overall responsibility for drugs policy to move from the Home Office to DHSC.332 However we think, especially from what was said by the Secretary of State for Health,333 that the Government do in fact already recognise that gambling harms are a health issue. In their final evidence, Ministers wrote:

“Problem gambling is indeed a health issue, which is why the Department of Health and Social Care leads on providing access to NHS treatment and advice, and developing the research and evidence base … The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport and the Department of Health and Social Care co-chair a quarterly cross-government and third sector official-level steering group to coordinate and share activities on research, education and treatment.”334

292.Ministers do not however favour a transfer of primary responsibility from DCMS to DHSC. Such a transfer might have a symbolic value, but we agree that it would not alter the fact that at least the nine departments we have listed in Box 2 would continue to have their individual responsibilities in relation to gambling. There is also a risk that DHSC, already a large department with multiple responsibilities, might not be able to give gambling policy the overall attention it deserves. We think that DCMS is well placed to continue to coordinate the law and policy governing gambling and the fight against gambling-related harms, and we do not recommend a change.

293.We believe that, despite the symbolic value of a transfer of primary responsibility for gambling from DCMS to DHSC, there would not be any practical benefit from such a transfer, and there might be disadvantages. DCMS should continue to be the department with primary responsibility.

294.DCMS, like the Gambling Commission, has seldom been proactive, and sometimes has been more obstructive than reactive, as in the case of lowering the maximum stake of FOBTs, where it was supported by the Treasury. The failure to take action on a mandatory levy, which we discuss in Chapter 8,335 is another example.

295.A decision to undertake a major review of gambling and of the gambling industry came about only because, with a general election looming, political parties were driven to give undertakings to do something which would satisfy electors. The election is now six months behind us, but nothing has happened and no dates have been set. We expect DCMS, as the owner of the policy for gambling, to take this forward with some urgency. This report, the evidence on which it is based, and the recommendations we make, should make for a solid foundation.

296.In exercising their responsibilities, DCMS Ministers and officials should give much greater priority to gambling, and in particular to measures which DCMS, other departments or the Gambling Commission could take to minimise gambling-related harms.


297.Gambling with Lives is a charity set up by families bereaved by gambling-related suicides. All lost young people aged 18–34 who had been addicted to gambling when they were children or adolescents, on machines and in environments that they and their families thought were safe. They sent us written evidence, and their co-founders, Charles and Liz Ritchie, with another member, gave us oral evidence. Subsequently they have sent us further supplementary evidence. Additionally, in a very moving private session, we met a number of members of the bereaved families to hear their accounts of the circumstances in which they had lost their loved ones, and what they thought might be done to lessen the chances of this happening to other families.

The dearth of statistics

298.We have already emphasised how analysis of the harms caused by gambling is hampered by a dearth of reliable statistics. This is particularly true in trying to assess the number of suicides related to problem gambling, an issue that cannot be addressed via prevalence surveys. Gambling with Lives have collated academic research suggesting that the number of gambling-related suicides per year is in the range 250–650, but they noted336 that the Government has no official figures or even estimates of the number of gambling-related suicides each year in the UK. They suggest that this can be rectified through the commissioning of a dedicated research programme.

299.As the National Centre for Social Research told us,337 there used to be such a programme.

“The Adult Psychiatric Morbidity Survey (APMS) is ideally placed to examine problem gambling in the context of other health and social harms and has been used to provide high quality evidence in this area. We believe that inclusion of questions on problem gambling on a mental health survey which covers the range of related health and social harms that APMS does (both psychiatric comorbidities and also things like social network size and quality of support, problem debt and disconnection, and suicidal thoughts, attempts and self-harm behaviours) is very valuable. APMS surveys have been carried out every 7 years since 1993 (followed by 2000, 2007 and 2014); questions on gambling were last included in 2007. To maintain this sequence a survey is due in 2021, and we believe it is very important that the government commits to carrying out the next survey in the series, and that it should include questions on gambling.”

300.Work carried out for the Gambling Commission to explore the link between problem gambling and suicide included a workshop on evidence needs around suicide and problem gambling.338 This recommended that questions on gambling should be included in the 2021 Adult Psychiatric Morbidity Survey, the analysis of which would:

301.The seven-yearly Adult Psychiatric Morbidity Survey included questions on gambling in 2007, but not in 2014. The 2021 Survey should again include questions on gambling, and the prevalence of suicidal tendencies linked to gambling.

Statistics through the coronial process

302.Gambling with Lives suggested that another way of collating statistics about the numbers of gambling-related suicides might be through changes to medical recording and the coronial process.339

303.It is not, and never has been, part of the duties of coroners to record the reason for a death; they have always been limited to discovering “who, when, where and how”, but not “why” a person died; indeed there is a statutory prohibition on such a finding.340 There is a good reason for this: “why” often involves deciding that a criminal offence has been committed, often with an indication of the likely perpetrator, and this would impact on the criminal process and might prejudice a fair trial. But the result is that a finding that a death was the result of suicide will not say that the suicide was caused in whole or in part by gambling, even if the coroner believes that this was the case. Coroners’ offices therefore have no record of gambling-related suicides.

304.Until 1 October 2019 doctors were under no formal duty to notify a coroner of a person’s death or, if they did, to include any particular information. On that day new Regulations came into force, the Notification of Deaths Regulations 2019,341 which were made under the Coroners and Justice Act 2009. Regulation 3(1) requires doctors to notify senior coroners in writing of any death where the doctor “suspects that [a] person’s death was due to … self-harm”. Regulation 4 lists the details of the information a doctor is required to supply, including the circumstances which apply to the death (such as self-harm). Doctors must provide any further information they consider to be relevant, and could therefore state that they believe the death from self-harm was gambling-related; but they are not under an obligation to do so. If they were required to do so, each of the 88 coroners’ offices would accumulate a record of the deaths where doctors suspect that the death was gambling-related. These records could be collated by the Ministry of Justice.

305.We accept that there might still be defects. The records would not list the findings of coroners, but the opinions of doctors, who might apply different criteria, or might not discover that a suicide was gambling-related. Nevertheless we believe such records would be a great deal better than the current lack of any formal record, and should provide more accurate estimates of the numbers of suicides which are gambling-related.

306.The Notification of Deaths Regulations 2019 should be amended to include in the list of information which doctors are required to provide to coroners a requirement, when a doctor suspects that a death by self-harm was gambling-related, to inform the coroner of this.

307.Coroners’ offices should keep a record of such information and forward it at intervals to the Ministry of Justice, which must collate it and keep a list of the numbers of deaths by self-harm which doctors suspect were gambling-related. The numbers of such deaths, but not details of individual deaths, should be publicly available.

Training of doctors

308.Ms Ritchie pointed us to a report published in the British Medical Journal as long ago as January 2007,342 shortly before the Gambling Act 2005 came fully into force, in which the British Medical Association suggested that training in spotting gambling addiction should be provided for GPs because of the anticipated increase in the number of gambling addicts. Nothing, she said, had been done; there was still no training for GPs. Mr Ritchie added: “If a young man, in particular, goes to the doctor now and says he has anxiety, depression and sleeplessness, the first or second question should be about gambling.”343

309.This was a point also made by Anna Hemmings, the Chief Executive of GamCare: “Training other professionals is also really important. If you go to your GP and say that you are depressed because you are in debt, do they ask about gambling? Do debt advisers ask about it? Over the past couple of years, we have trained around 20,000 professionals with the view to trying to encourage them to ask a question.”344 20,000 sounds like a large number, but Ms Hemmings did not say how many of these professionals are GPs or other doctors, who are often the first port of call.

310.Guidance should be issued to doctors that they should be alert to asking patients who present with symptoms of anxiety and/or depression whether they have any gambling problems, and if so to offer them advice about where they should seek specialist help.

Affordability checks

311.Affordability checks are critical to any attempt to make gambling safer and reduce problem gambling. Affordability checks are needed not only to ensure that customers are not gambling beyond their means, but also to prevent them gambling with what may be the proceeds of crime, or to use gambling as a way of laundering money.

312.Kenny Alexander, the CEO of GVC, summarised the position as he saw it:

“Affordability is absolutely key. There is a huge desire for the industry to get to a standard view among all licensed operators, all using the same affordability checks, all agreeing and making the same decision about an individual player if they were to come to that business. If possible … we could take one view of a player, so that he is not spending an amount with me and the same with Ulrik [Bengtsson, i.e. William Hill]. There should be a single standard view for looking at the affordability of players for all licensed operators … . We should take best practice across the industry, put it in place as what any licensed operator should be using, and we should be able to share that information so that it cannot be abused by breaching my affordability and doing the same with Ulrik—that completely defeats the purpose. … If we can address it and get it right, I think that the number of problem gamblers in existence today—a magnitude of about 400,000—will come down significantly once that plays through over the next three to five years.”345

He did not explain why it should take as long as three years, let alone five.

313.Mr Bengtsson added: “The really important thing is that these limits and affordability checks are for individuals. There have been some suggestions of one level for everyone, which clearly would not work. I want to make that clear.”346

314.With that we wholly agree. What can be an enormous sum and totally unaffordable for most people is, for some, small change, as this example shows. It comes from a case where Aspinall’s Club was seeking to recover the £2 million which the defendant had paid by a cheque which he had dishonoured:

“On 10 March 2000 the defendant, Fouad Al-Zayat, a businessman resident in Nicosia, Cyprus visited the claimant’s gaming club, Aspinall’s, in Mayfair. He had visited the club on an irregular but frequent basis since 10 October 1994. He continued to do so until 11 April 2006. During that period he gambled £91,538,077 and lost £23,225,041.89. … In 1999 and 2000 he began to gamble sums in excess of one million pounds in a single night. … On the night of 10 March 2000 he gambled £2m. and lost every penny.”347

315.At the other end of the scale, this example is taken from the Gambling Commission’s decision in the case of Caesars Entertainment to which we referred in the previous chapter as an example of a recent large financial settlement:

316.Customer L visited a casino and was allowed to buy-in for circa £60,000. The customer’s occupation was recorded as a retired ‘Postman’. The casino was aware the customer had previously self-excluded for six months before returning to gambling. Despite this knowledge, the customer was allowed to gamble for a period of 44 days, losing over £15,000.348

317.An example of a company totally disregarding the need to check the source of funds comes from the Gambling Commission’s decision in the case of Betway to which we have already referred:

Customer A held 11 separate accounts with Betway. The customer deposited more than £494,000 over a period of one year and five months, £300,000 of which was over five months, and was the subject of 18 reviews by Betway’s risk and fraud team. Betway did not undertake any checks to establish Customer A’s source of funds as the customer failed to trigger any of Betway’s financial thresholds in place at the time. Customer A has subsequently been convicted of fraud. Customer A also displayed signs of problem gambling having self-excluded on a number of occasions, one of which followed depositing and losing over £50,000 in a single day. Betway could not provide evidence of any social responsibility interactions being carried out with this customer.349

How to measure affordability

318.These are examples where it is clear that the gamblers could not afford the bets they were placing, but usually things will not be quite so clear cut.

319.Gambling operators already have available a large amount of information about their customers, especially those gambling online. In February 2019 the Gambling Commission published responses to a consultation showing that licensees could access information relating to a customer’s financial circumstances, such as bank statements, proof of income, and credit checks. Others suggested that licensees could analyse income and expenditure, with a number suggesting using socio-demographic data to form an understanding of affordability. One respondent said that a customer’s lifestyle could inform a licensee about how much they could afford to gamble.350

320.beBettor is a gambling compliance data processing company assisting gambling companies with the issue of affordability. They told us that they help gambling companies understand how much their customers can afford to gamble before experiencing financial harm, and measure gambling activity data within their network of operators against these affordability estimates. They said:

“The affordability estimates we provide are calculated through processing individual customer data, and mapping this against socio-demographic and economic data sources available in the public domain (“Open Data”). Part of the difficulty in assessing the social and economic impact of gambling to date is that the industry response has been fragmented, with operators reluctant to work together. However, operators working collaboratively will achieve greater results in the area of problem gambling than more isolated efforts.”351

321.It is a safe assumption that anyone who is gambling with borrowed money is doing so because they do not have that money themselves; they are clearly not able to afford to gamble. The Gambling Commission has recently banned the use of credit cards for all forms of remote gambling (betting, gaming and lotteries), and for non-remote betting.352 The regulatory framework already prevents non-remote casino, bingo, adult gaming centre and family entertainment centre operators from accepting payment by credit card, and no gaming machine can be configured to accept payment by credit card.

322.We accept the evidence of the banks that it is not for them to monitor how their customers spend their own money, or spend overdrafts that have been agreed,353 but if an operator becomes aware that money being used to gamble comes from an overdraft, this should immediately ring alarm bells. The alarm bells would be louder still if the money derives from a payday loan, but since these are mostly paid in cash, the source is even more difficult to trace.

323.Since May 2019 the LCCP has required operators to have in place systems for age and identity verification.354 These are questions of fact and so relatively easy to measure and police. There is no provision of the LCCP specifically about affordability; the word does not feature in the Licence Conditions or in the Codes of Practice. Since 31 October 2019 there has been a Social Responsibility Code provision on customer interaction355 which requires licensees to “interact with customers in a way which minimises the risk of customers experiencing harms associated with gambling”. This vague wording is supplemented by Formal Guidance for Remote Gambling Operators356 which has passages on affordability, vulnerability, and how to spot harmful gambling. There is also a link to current compliance and enforcement casework, giving operators an indication of where the Commission draws the limits of what it deems to be unacceptable interaction with customers on affordability.

324.This document leaves much to the discretion of individual operators. We consider that this is very undesirable, as matter of principle. Gambling operators are subject to an acute conflict between their commercial interests (which may be promoted by allowing problem gamblers to bet more, when they should not be permitted to bet at all) and their duty to comply with the Social Responsibility Code. In order to reduce the danger that the conflict between interest and duty will cause operators to allow or even encourage problem gamblers to gamble when they should not, it is essential that the Guidance be tightly drafted so as to define clearly and prescriptively the steps operators should take.

325.The Guidance states: “Historically, gambling operators have not systematically considered customer affordability when developing their customer interaction policies.”357 We would have expected the Guidance then to state in the most explicit terms that it is now the duty of operators to develop policies which will enable them to identify when customers are betting amounts they cannot afford, and to cease accepting their bets. It neither states this nor clearly implies it.

326.The Gambling Commission must amend its Formal Guidance for Remote Gambling Operators to define the minimum steps which operators should take when considering customer affordability, and to make clear that it is for the operator to take those steps, and any necessary additional steps, which will enable them to identify customers who are betting more than they can afford.

Data protection issues

327.One of the difficulties with affordability checks has always been the ease with which a customer who is turned away by an operator on affordability grounds can then begin placing bets with another operator who may not have access to the same data against which to test affordability. The gambling operators have told us that for online players they have “a huge amount of data on our customers”358 and “a vast amount of information on play”,359 but that they could not share it with other operators because of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). They said they had approached the Information Commissioner through the Gambling Commission but had not had much response.360

328.The Responsible Affiliates Group made the same point: “There are valid controls contained within GDPR and Data Protection laws to limit exchanges of personal data even if the aim is to improve protections for them. To date this has limited the ability of operators to share data between themselves and with the affiliate sector.”361

329.We therefore approached the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) ourselves, and asked if the GDPR prevented gambling operators from sharing the personal data of vulnerable gamblers with other gambling operators, and what would need to be changed to allow operators to do this. We received a full and helpful reply whose main conclusion is: “Data protection law does not prevent gambling operators from sharing the personal data of vulnerable gamblers. We believe that there are ways to do this that are compliant with data protection legislation. It is important that people who may be vulnerable receive the help they need.”362

330.The ICO explain some of the steps which will be needed to enable data to be shared, and their full evidence, like all written evidence, is available on our website for the operators to read. Operators will have to contact the ICO and make their case for an exemption from the GDPR. But there is no doubt that this can be done. The ICO’s evidence concludes:

“Our key message is that data protection legislation does not prevent gambling operators from sharing the personal data of their vulnerable users. Operators will need to ensure that they share data fairly and proportionately and consider particular elements of GDPR such as the lawful basis to enable the sharing.”

331.DCMS and the Gambling Commission should without delay contact the Information Commissioner’s Office and agree a procedure, consistent with the GDPR, allowing operators to share with all other operators the information they derive from affordability checks on individuals.

332.It should be a condition of gambling licences that where an operator’s affordability check throws doubt on whether an individual can safely gamble at the rate they have been doing, this information should be shared with all other licensed gambling operators, which will be bound by it in the same way.

The role of the banks

333.Plainly, the primary source of how much an individual can afford to spend on gambling is, apart for the individuals themselves, their bank. Banks are in a privileged position, in seeing both a gambler’s income and their electronic transactions across all gambling operators. But as Alexandra Frean, the Head of Corporate Affairs at Starling Bank, told us, and as we accept:

“We are a bank. Our job is to hold people’s money securely and help them transact. It is not our job to pass judgment on how they spend their money. Our concern is affordability. If they get into financial difficulties and cannot pay back their overdraft or loan, we would intervene to support them, whatever they spend their money on.”363

Lloyds Banking Group made the same point to us in written evidence: “We do not see our role as, in effect, policing customers’ spending habits and behaviours. Instead, we aim to provide customers with the tools to manage and track their spending so they can make informed choices; and we encourage customers to engage with us if they need support with their finances.”364

334.The BGC told us that they supported calls for banks to enable customers to block gambling transactions as a further way for people to stay in control.365 In fact, even at the time they wrote, some banks already provided those facilities, as we were told by Peter Holloway:

“I have an interest in the structure of business, business practices and especially Business Information Systems. I also suffer the tragedy of my stepson’s suicide; a victim of gambling. … A few months ago two new Challenger Banks, Starling Bank and Monzo Bank, became the first banks to introduce a ‘gambling blocker’, enabling gambling customers with addiction problems to block betting payments from their accounts. What is just as important, is they combine this with customer care features and advice to gamblers at a standard of practice not seen before … Their reward being a huge influx of new customers at the expense of their High Street competitors …. The big four were on the back foot and forced to respond. Barclays have recently become the first UK High Street Bank to adopt payment blocking on gambling and some other retail services. Three more UK High Street Banks, Lloyds, Santander and RBS are about to follow suit.”366

335.Lloyds Bank have in fact already followed suit, as they explained:

“We implemented card controls on both credit and debit cards for our customers in Q4 2019. These controls provide customers with the ability to apply a block on all identifiable gambling transactions (i.e. those with licensed operators). Critically, we apply a 48-hour ‘cooling-off’ period for removal of the spending block. This is a major differentiator compared to many of our competitors since it provides an appropriate level of friction in the unblocking process. This is in order to prevent the risk of a customer impulsively removing the block and gambling further without time to reflect on their desire to gamble.”367

336.Ms Frean explained to us how this works in practice at Starling Bank:

“We have introduced a gambling block in our app. We were the first bank to do so; we did it back in June 2018. This is a very simple function in the app: you can go into a section called “card controls” and turn gambling payments on and off. That blocks payments for spending codes that cover betting and gambling at the track, online and in betting establishments. We have subsequently improved that feature. We have put in a 48-hour delay, so that if you want to reactivate gambling payments, you can tap in the app to do so but will have to wait for 48 hours. … The block and the 48-hour delay are there to help with impulse control; gambling can often be an impulsive decision.”368

337.Ms Frean confirmed that other banks had now copied this, Lloyds among them. Most had adopted a block of 48 hours. 17% of Starling’s 1.3 million customers had activated the gambling block:

“They are not all people with gambling problems. There are people who turn it on because they can. When a lot of people open an account, they go into the app, see what it does, and say, “That’s interesting”. We cannot tell what proportion are people who have turned it on to stop themselves gambling. [When they switch it on] there are two effects. One is that they will get a little message saying that we are blocking gambling and it will be 48 hours before we turn it back on. We signpost them with the telephone number and a link straight through to the National Gambling Helpline. If they then tried to make any transaction at a licensed gambling merchant, it would be declined and would not work. It does not block the purchase of National Lottery tickets, which you might buy at a newsagent or a supermarket, but it blocks most gambling.”369

338.In supplementary written evidence Ms Frean added: “It would be helpful for the banking sector to work together more collaboratively on this issue and I will be asking UK Finance to do more to bring the sector together to discuss this and we will work with them on it.”370 We welcome this initiative. For a bank to be able to let a customer block their spending on gambling is a very valuable development, and we hope that any banks which have not already done so will follow suit.

339.We recommend that the banks should work together with UK Finance to create an industry-wide protocol on blocking gambling payments, with at least a 48 hour cooling off period.

340.What would be more valuable still would be if the gambling operators could approach the banks for data on the accounts of customers who are problem gamblers, or at risk of being so, or who are opening new gambling accounts. The gambling operators, if they were serious about the importance of affordability checks, might have been expected to discuss with the banks how they could cooperate, but Ms Frean told us that Starling Bank “have not been approached by any gambling companies to do affordability checks. We would certainly be open to speaking to them about it ….”371 Similarly, Lloyds Bank were “not aware of any direct contact from gambling operators in relation to undertaking affordability checks, but we are open to having such discussions.”372

341.As we have said, for gambling operators to share among themselves the data required for affordability checks raises data protection issues that can be resolved. For banks to be able to share such data with the industry will raise separate data protection issues, and we have not sought the opinion of the ICO on this.

342.The Gambling Commission, the Betting and Gaming Council, and UK Finance should work with the Information Commissioner’s Office to create a consistent industry-wide approach on the sharing of customers’ financial data for the purpose of affordability checks.

VIP schemes

343.Far and away the industry’s most successful inducement is the VIP scheme, which gives special treatment to those who gamble large sums. If they can afford to do so, this does not necessarily cause any harm; but too often those targeted by operators are chosen because they are particularly susceptible to persuasion to gamble large sums, often when they cannot afford to do so. And, when considering VIP schemes, affordability is key.

344.Conor Grant, the Chief Operating Officer of Sky Betting and Gaming, told us:

“I personally do not like using the term ‘VIP’. We do not have it in our business any more: we call them key account managed customers. The reality is that there are people who can afford to spend more on gambling. As in any commercial enterprise, those customers expect a different level of service. We are providing that.”373

345.Whatever term is used to describe them, to the industry these customers are indeed Very Important People, since they make a contribution to operators’ deposits, and hence profits, out of all proportion to their numbers, as Figure 7 shows:

Figure 7: VIP account and deposit comparator (online)

A bar chart showing the comparison between the VIPs as a percentage of customers and VIPs as a percentage of deposits.

Source: Gambling Commission, What is a VIP: [accessed 18 May 2020]

346.The figures come from a survey by the Gambling Commission, who point out that this is not necessarily representative of the online industry as a whole. However the picture it shows is that VIPs are a small select band: in one case only 0.004% of customers (probably in single figures), and in no case more than 5%. Yet those 5% of customers yield 58% of Operator 3’s deposits; in the case of three operators, 3% of customers yield respectively 34%, 36% and 48% of deposits; while 2% of Operator 4’s customers yield 83% of their deposits. Of the estimated 47,000 online VIPs, 8% are problem gamblers.

Abuse of VIP schemes

347.Lydia Thomas, a journalist on BBC Radio 4’s consumer affairs programme You and Yours, told us that for the past four years she has been reporting on the gambling industry. She gave us an insight into how VIP schemes operate:

“Many companies offer VIP programmes to customers who they can see are spending a lot of money with them. They do this to keep customers loyal to them. Once a customer is entered into the scheme they will receive special offers, such as free bets and bonuses. They’re usually entered into a loyalty rewards programme (so the more they spend the more free bets they get), and they will also be assigned a personal manager who phones and emails them regularly, establishing a direct relationship and in many cases, befriending them. Often the customers are invited to away days like football matches. The Gambling Commission requires companies to check a player’s income before they are made a VIP, but in my experience this check isn’t done. Because no check is done the gambling companies have no idea whether a player is a high roller who can afford huge losses, or someone who cannot afford it. Customers I have spoken to say they feel “groomed” to spend more by the gambling company.”374

348.Ms Thomas added:

“On behalf of customers I have submitted Subject Access Requests to these gambling firms to supply the customers with their account data. In this data you can see evidence of problem gambling, for example, gambling all night, on obscure sports, or using a range of payment options. These are all clear instances the Gambling Commission says companies should flag. You can see breaks in play and then emails arriving in inboxes offering customers free bets. You can see notes on customer’s accounts stating the customer hasn’t played for a while, and customer service agents discussing how they should contact the customer to play again.”

349.Michelle Singlehurst, one of our witnesses with lived experience, described her personal experiences:

“One thing that horrified me was to find out that, as a VIP, which I definitely am not, they had a different system for me. I said to them, ‘Hang on a minute. You are telling me that you self-excluded me because of a concerning email I sent, or a concerning call. Give me that information, please’. They said, ‘Sorry, we found you on a different system because you are a VIP’. …. Ladbrokes—this I find incredible, considering I have not gambled since 17 January [2019]—sent me an email on 17 March [2019] saying, ‘Hi, you’re not a VIP anymore’. … When I spoke to Coral recently, they said to me, ‘Oh, you’re level 9’. I said, ‘Sorry? I’m excluded from using’. They said, ‘No, you’re a level 9 VIP’. I do not even know what that is. Obviously, they have tiers. I have other emails that say ‘Thank you for joining us. If you carry on spending at this level, we’ll make you a VIP’.”375

The industry view

350.When representatives of the five major operators gave evidence to us, we questioned them about VIP schemes, and in particular about incentivisation—paying VIP managers bonuses for attracting more customers, or customers who gamble more. Mr Grant told us that Sky Betting and Gaming had 3 million customers and 100 VIPs representing 1% of their revenue.

“The relationship that we have with these customers acknowledges that they have a propensity to spend more. We are very stringent on the affordability checks and ensuring that they have adequate resources to spend at higher levels. The relationship that they have with the individuals is not one in which the individual is remunerated or given a bonus based on customer performance.”376

351.Mr Alexander told us that “VIPs or high-value customers—whatever you want to call them—make up 1.4% of our database. These make up 38% of the total deposits of Ladbrokes Coral, which is our UK business. As you would expect, they spend more than the rest.” He added: “All retail consumer businesses have loyalty schemes that reward people who use the sites, but I think that some of the gambling ones have got too aggressive: you are incentivised to play more and more to get better tickets, more bonuses, et cetera.”377 He referred to a case in which a customer of Ladbrokes Coral, before they were taken over by GVC, had spent £3 million before having an affordability check, and said: “I can pretty much guarantee that the VIP manager of that customer was incentivised. Not all VIP managers are now.”378—from which we deduce that some VIP managers still are incentivised.

352.Dan Taylor, the CEO of Paddy Power Betfair, who preferred to use the expression “managed customers”, explained that “the key account managers who have those relationships do not have their incentives linked to the spend of those customers in any way, but they are linked to the successful completion of those responsible gambling processes.” He added: “All our key account managers and anyone working in our customer service team go through responsible gambling training.”379

353.On the question of incentivisation, Ulrik Bengtsson said: “At William Hill, we are measured on sustainability and responsible gambling measures, but there are people in the organisation who are measured on revenue.”380 But, he added, “We have very strict measures in place for what we call high-value customers or VIPs. You have to be over 25; can never have taken time out, self-excluded, set deposit limits or had a form of responsible gambling intervention from us in your history; and we are very diligent in the source of funds measures that we take to make sure that these people can afford to play on these levels.”381

354.John Coates, Joint Chief Executive of Bet365, told us that Bet365 “would not bonus in that way”.382 The fact remains that, at the time we took this evidence, of the five companies, William Hill still had “people in the organisation who are measured on revenue”383, while at GVC “not all VIP managers are [incentivised] now.”384 Despite the care which they profess to take about affordability checks, we find it hard to see how the incentive of higher pay or bonus can fail to tempt staff into putting numbers of players and great amounts wagered above customer safety.

355.A number of the largest operators have formed working groups with the Gambling Commission whose purpose is:

“to accelerate progress to protect consumers from gambling harm. … Working groups made up of senior leaders from the industry were formed in January 2020—concentrating on use of VIP incentives, safer advertising online and the use of safer product design. The Industry working groups featured over 30 operators, co-ordinated by the BGC.”385

356.We thought it strange, to say the least, that the industry should be leading a working group intended to better regulate its own VIP schemes. The Chairman of the Gambling Commission, Dr William Moyes, attempted to throw a different light on it:

“We are not asking GVC to lead an inquiry and to take charge of this area. … We have asked GVC to pull together a number of large operators to propose a code of conduct. In our view, if the code of conduct is strong, the industry is well bound into it and it has the industry’s support, we could import it into our licensing regime. If the code of conduct is poor, we do not have to follow it. We will do our own work, and we will not follow that experiment again. But we would like to feel that the industry, particularly the bigger companies that the industry would regard as the leaders of the sector, can be brought into developing solutions to new problems as they emerge. If the evidence shows us that they cannot be brought in and they will always propose something that is pretty weak, we will not do it again.386

357.However on 1 April 2020 the working group announced:

The industry has agreed to:

358.To this the Commission responded:

359.Given the size of the contribution VIP schemes (under whatever name) make to the profits of the industry, we think it unlikely that they could formulate a long term scheme which, on any objective assessment, might be thought to control the problem. However we agree with the Commission that, as an interim measure, the industry’s proposal is better than nothing, and should be implemented within three months. At the time of writing, those three months are almost up.

360.The Gambling Commission must closely monitor the working of the interim measures for the regulation of VIP schemes while it consults urgently on changes to the LCCP for the permanent regulation of such schemes.

361.The licence conditions for gambling operators must be amended to require them to undertake a thorough affordability and source of funds check before admitting any new customer to a VIP scheme (however it may be called). Such customers must be at least 25 years old.

362.It should be a condition of an operator’s licence that the salaries and bonuses of employees of the operator, its subsidiaries or affiliates should not in any way depend on the length of time or frequency that a customer they have had personal contact with gambles, or the amount spent or lost, or the profit made by the operator from that customer.


363.The social responsibility code is unequivocal about the need for licensees to have effective procedures for self-exclusion. They must:

These requirements apply to remote and non-remote licences, but there are additional provisions specific to each of these.

364.As with the case of affordability checks, the problem with self-exclusion has always been the ease with which individuals who have self-excluded, or believe they have, can nevertheless begin gambling again. We have been told of many examples of individuals being contacted by another company, a subsidiary, an affiliate or even the company from which they have self-excluded with inducements to continue gambling. If self-exclusion is time limited, the day it ends is seen as the day to restart inducements.

Self-exclusion disregarded

365.Alex Macey, one of our witnesses with lived experience, explained this:

“The parent company could have 10 or 20 companies below it. I would open an account, lose money on payday and tell the company, ‘I have a gambling problem. Permanently exclude me’. The following month I would become weak and spend my wages again. I would literally type ‘online gambling company’ into Google. Whichever one came up, I would click on it and open an account. So the pattern was that I was telling them the same messages over and over again and they were letting me open account after account after account. They were sending me marketing emails and texts, all after I had self-excluded and told them how destructive my problem was.”389

366.Two particularly glaring examples come from the Gambling Commission’s Enforcement Report 2017–18:390

“We reviewed a large operator’s licence after concerns were raised that self-excluded customers had been allowed to continue gambling. The operator ran two distinct platforms, which together hosted more than 270 websites and brands through which customers could gamble. The operator’s process was supposed to ensure a customer who self-excluded from one platform would be self-excluded from both but this process failed. It was discovered by the operator over the course of a year that some 7,010 self-excluded customers were able to continue gambling, depositing £3.5m. Customers were able to gamble, using deposits and recycled winnings, to a total of £50.6m. … As part of a regulatory settlement the operator agreed to return to the self-excluded customers the £3.5m deposited during the period and make a payment in lieu of a financial penalty of £4m as to the self-exclusion breaches.”

“We also took action against another operator who had failed to return deposited funds to self-excluded customers on the closure of their accounts. Our investigation revealed some 36,748 customers were affected. It was further revealed this same operator had sent marketing material to around 50,000 self-excluded customers inviting them to gamble. We imposed a penalty package of £1m for both failings.”

367.More recently, on 8 April 2020, the Gambling Commission published its reasons for suspending Triplebet’s licence. They include: “a player who registered, played and self-excluded on the same day, re-opened his account 6 months later, playing for 10 hours a day on 2 consecutive days and nights, and then losing a large sum in a single day before self-excluding again, all without any monitoring or interaction.”391


368.What of course is essential is a mechanism allowing the fact that a customer has self-excluded from one operator to be rapidly communicated to all other operators, their subsidiaries and affiliates, so that they can all exclude that customer at the same time for the period requested. GAMSTOP is just such a mechanism.392 Until recently its effectiveness was limited because an operator’s membership of GAMSTOP was voluntary, but since 31 March 2020 membership has been compulsory, and within three days the Gambling Commission announced that it had suspended the licences of two online operators for failure to fully integrate the self-exclusion scheme GAMSTOP.393

369.GAMSTOP has explained the way it operates:394

370.We welcome the fact that, when the period of self-exclusion expires, the self-exclusion remains in force unless the gambler takes positive steps to have it removed. We are less happy that self-excluded gamblers will continue to receive communications unless they take steps to unsubscribe.

371.Licence conditions must require every operator who has been notified, whether through GAMSTOP or otherwise, of an individual’s self-exclusion, not to send any communications not required by law to that individual during the period of self-exclusion, and thereafter to do so only if the individual takes steps to have the self-exclusion removed.

A Duty of care

372.One of the questions we asked in our Call for Evidence was: “Should gambling operators have a legal duty of care to their customers?” The responses of some of our witnesses did not distinguish between a duty of care and a duty owed by operators to their customers to obey the law. Some thought the duty should be owed by the state, and that the state had a duty of care which should be exercised by improved oversight of operators.395 The European Lotto Association wrote that “Gambling operators have a legal responsibility to comply with existing regulatory restrictions and to operate in good faith. This responsibility represents their duty of care for their customers.”396

373.This is a misunderstanding. Operators of course are required to obey the law, and this includes conditions imposed on them by their licences and by the social responsibility provisions in the codes of practice.397 Our question sought views on whether a legal duty of care should be owed by the operator to the customer, so that breach of the duty would be a tort and create a cause of action by the customer against the operator.

374.The BGC thought that there was a “narrow duty of care already recognised at common law because it is owed to customers as a class and enforceable by any customer rather than limited to individual customers towards whom the operator has assumed a particular responsibility.”398

375.Simon Thomas of the Hippodrome Casino also thought there already was such a duty:

“We have a duty of care now and we get sued by customers. If we get it totally wrong, people can fairly have a go at us, which obviously helps us to be very responsible. … we as the gambling industry have had some fairly public cases where people have been sued, because they did not follow reasonable protocols and they allowed problem gamblers to gamble with money that was not theirs.”399

376.We think the current position in English law is not so clear. The leading case is Calvert v. William Hill Credit Ltd.400 The claimant, a greyhound trainer, was successful at betting on greyhounds—too successful, and the bookmakers limited his betting. He turned to other forms of betting, became (in the words of the judge) a pathological gambler, and ruined himself. He twice attempted to self-exclude from William Hill, but although he was assured by their employee that he was self-excluded, the employee failed to implement this, and Mr Calvert continued to bet with them. When he ran out of money he sued William Hill on the basis of a breach of a duty of care owed to him. The judge held that, while there was no general duty of care, the failure to implement his self-exclusion was a breach of a narrow duty of care arising out of the employee’s assurance. But the judge decided that Mr Calvert would have carried on gambling with other operators and ruined himself anyway, so his claim failed because he was unable to prove that the breach of duty had caused the relevant losses. The Court of Appeal concurred.

377.This case is only of limited assistance. The facts predated the entry into force of the Gambling Act, so that William Hill’s licence contained no conditions about self-exclusion. In anticipation of the Act’s entry into force William Hill and other companies had adopted their own voluntary social responsibility codes which included a form of self-exclusion agreement. However it was not this code which imposed a duty of care, but the assurance which William Hill’s employee gave to Mr Calvert that he was self-excluded, when in fact he was not.

378.The witnesses who did consider the question of a legal duty of care had very differing views. The Gambling Commission thought this unnecessary. They pointed out that licensees already have legal duties under generally applicable consumer protection law or data protection law, and added: “We have not committed resource to explore in-depth how imposing further civil duties of care to consumers could operate as we do not consider that the existence or lack of such a civil duty impacts upon our ability to deliver our regulatory objectives.”401

379.Most of the industry were strongly opposed to the creation of a duty of care. The BGC, while they believed that there was already a narrow duty of care,402 thought that a wider duty was:

“unnecessary because the existing duties under the 2005 Act regime already impose extensive obligations on operators to protect children and other vulnerable persons from being harmed or exploited by gambling, and there is no evidence that these obligations and their enforcement by the Gambling Commission have proved to be ineffective or insufficient. A new duty of care enforceable in a private law claim by an individual customer would inevitably impose very similar obligations to those currently enforced by the Gambling Commission, leading to a risk of piecemeal, overlapping and inconsistent enforcement.”403

380.BACTA thought that any duty owed to customers should not be a legal duty: “It would be near impossible to determine the extent of that duty of care and the extent of any responsibility and thereafter liability.”404 The Rank Group were concerned to know how such an additional legal duty could be applied in a manner that was fair, just and reasonable; they wondered how the role and findings of the regulator would interact with the role of the courts. They also thought that any duty of care should not be imposed on the gambling industry alone, but also on other industries with similar issues for addictive behaviour, such as the alcohol industry.405

381.Professor Hörnle thought that a duty of care was a good idea, but that it was very badly defined.

“If through regulation we had a clearer idea of the obligations of a specific operator in a specific field of gambling, a duty of care could be backed up not only by regulation and fines but also by a civil duty of care, in other words a tort actioning negligence where someone could sue for compensation.”

She gave as an example the testing of affordability.

“If the regulator had a best practice code saying that, if someone has spent so much in this amount of time, you have to find further information and whether they can afford it, and if those best practice standards and regulatory standards have not been complied with, there would be a civil law obligation as well.”406

382.Gerald Gouriet QC did not favour a wide-ranging duty of care. In answer to the question “Would it be unreasonable to create by statute a duty of care to cover a deliberate or negligent failure to give effect to a self-exclusion agreement?” he pointed out that self-exclusion agreements usually require the gambler to sign an express disclaimer of liability for the consequences of gambling while self-excluded; the effect of such disclaimers would need to be limited by statute. He added:

“The difficulty is finding a fair balance: self-excluded problem gamblers who gamble while excluded and win tend not to kick up too much of a fuss. A scenario might unfairly be created in favour of the self-excluded gambler, in which he can recover his losses in an action of negligence against one operator—whilst holding onto his winnings from another.”

We accept that this is a possibility, but have little sympathy with an operator who has to pay winnings when the reason for this is simply his own failure to give effect to a self-exclusion agreement.

383.In the light of these differing views, should the law create a duty of care? The judge in Calvert, Mr Justice Briggs, thought that “the recognition of a common law duty to protect a problem gambler from self-inflicted gambling losses involves a journey to the outermost reaches of the tort of negligence, to the realm of the truly exceptional.”407 The judgment of the Court of Appeal quoted this with approval,408 and we recognise the force of it. We recognise also the primary duty of operators to comply with the LCCP, and of the Gambling Commission to enforce that compliance.

384.We are however persuaded that the current legal and regulatory context does not sufficiently deter gambling operators who stand to benefit from allowing problem gamblers to lose money. There is an obvious and acute conflict between, on the one hand, complying with regulatory obligations such as those relating to self-exclusion and affordability checks and, on the other hand, the natural commercial desire to maximise profit. We believe that the existence of a legal liability to pay compensation to gamblers who have lost money when gambling in circumstances which gave rise to an obligation on the gambling operator to refuse to accept their bets would be beneficial. It would create a strong incentive for gambling operators to comply with their regulatory and statutory obligations.

385.We recognise that it will only be in exceptional cases that gamblers who contend that they have sustained loss as a result of a gambling operator’s breach of duty will bring legal proceedings. It would, almost by definition, be difficult for the losing gambler to fund complex litigation. It may be difficult to find lawyers prepared to conduct such litigation on a contingency basis. It is likely, therefore, that legal proceedings would only be brought in cases where a very large sum of money had been lost by a problem gambler in circumstances in which the gambling operator’s breach of its regulatory obligations amounted to improper exploitation of the gambler.

386.We believe therefore that the issues as to the existence and scope of a tortious duty of care that were considered in Calvert may be most satisfactorily addressed by the creation of an action for breach of statutory duty. By way of example, section 138D(2) of the Financial Services and Markets Act 2000409 provides:

“A contravention by an authorised person of a rule made by the [Financial Conduct Authority] is actionable at the suit of a private person who suffers loss as a result of the contravention, subject to the defences and other incidents applying to actions for breach of statutory duty.”

387.The equivalent of “a rule made by the Financial Conduct Authority” would be the licence conditions and social responsibility codes of practice made by the Gambling Commission, for instance in relation to affordability tests and self-exclusion. A contravention of these would not only lead to the sanctions which the Gambling Commission can impose, but would also give rise to an action for breach of statutory duty at the suit of a customer who can prove that he has suffered loss as a result.

388.The causation issue which was fatal to the claim in Calvert might still arise. Unless express provision were made to the contrary,410 it would still be arguable by the operator that the loss suffered by the customer was not attributable to the operator’s breach of duty, since the loss would have been suffered in any case. This defence may have been appropriate when there was nothing to prevent a customer who had self-excluded from one operator from finding another operator with which to place a bet, and every chance that the other operator would not conduct an affordability test. We hope that, particularly if our recommendations are implemented, the days are now approaching when it is unlikely that a customer who has self-excluded will be able to find another operator prepared to accept a bet.

389.The law should be amended to make an operator who contravenes provisions of the licence conditions and social responsibility codes liable to an action for breach of statutory duty at the suit of a customer who has suffered loss as a result of that contravention.

Disputes between customers and operators

390.We referred in the previous chapter to the fact that gamblers in dispute with an operator feel they have “nowhere to turn”. They cannot turn to the Gambling Commission, which is a regulator. As Gambling with Lives acknowledges, “the current remit of the Gambling Commission to investigate the activities of individual companies in respect of their licensing conditions does not provide adequate protection or redress for individuals whose rights have been violated by a gambling company.”411

391.Social responsibility code provision 6.1.1 requires licensees to “put into effect appropriate policies and procedures for accepting and handling customer complaints and disputes in a timely, fair, open and transparent manner.” If this fails to resolve the dispute, as is usually the case, the code requires licensees to:

“ensure that they have arrangements in place for customers to be able to refer any dispute to an ADR entity in a timely manner if not resolved to the customer’s satisfaction by use of their complaints procedure within eight weeks of receiving the complaint, and where the customer cooperates with the complaints process in a timely manner.”412

392.Short of turning to the courts which, as we have said, individuals would seldom be in position to do, alternative dispute resolution (ADR) is currently the only practical avenue. The framework for ADR provision in the gambling (and other) sectors was established by the Alternative Dispute Resolution for Consumer Disputes (Competent Authorities and Information) Regulations 2015.413 The scope of the Regulations explicitly covers disputes concerning contractual obligations regarding the sale of goods or the provision of services. Mr McArthur confirmed that “a lot of the adjudication will be about bets and whether they should have been honoured.”

393.The Gambling Commission gives guidance to ADR providers on the limits of their powers:

“A dispute is a particular type of gambling-related complaint. It is a complaint about contractual obligations in sales or services contracts or about the customer’s gambling transaction (including management of the transaction and related customer accounts) that has not been resolved through the gambling business’s complaints procedure. For example, a dispute might be an unresolved complaint:

394.We received written evidence from the Independent Betting Adjudication Service (IBAS),415 one of a number of ADR services approved by the Gambling Commission, and the one which deals with the largest number of disputes. They told us that recent estimates indicate that IBAS receives and processes approximately 90% of complaints from gamblers across all sectors of gambling. They have received over 70,000 requests for adjudication since they were established in 1998, and 6,386 in 2018. They state, not in their evidence but on their website, that in 2019 they received 6,282 requests for adjudication,416 and the total of payments awarded or conceded to customers was £634,426. They also state on their website:

“Our primary aim is to deliver a fair-minded, even-handed adjudication that reflects a thorough understanding and knowledge of betting and gaming. Any consumer who is dissatisfied with the outcome of the IBAS process is free to pursue the matter further through the courts. Operators are bound by IBAS rulings up to £10,000 but also are free to demand that any case above that threshold be examined in court.”417

395.Richard Powell gave us evidence of the operation of the ADR scheme in a dispute with Bet365 over £3,300 of bets placed without his knowledge by his autistic grandson: “I then requested Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) and they [Bet365] nominated IBAS to be the ADR entity to adjudicate the dispute. IBAS refused since it was out-with their remit.” We were not told why this should have been outside the remit of IBAS. Mr Powell continued: “I nominated Pro Mediate who are a Gambling Commission approved ADR body. Bet 365 refused to accept Pro Mediate or any other ADR entity. Pro Mediate advised me that Bet 365 had a reputation, along with other UK bookmakers, for refusing to offer ADR other than via IBAS.”418

396.This of course is only one case, and we accept that people are less likely to send us evidence of successful ADR. Mr McArthur described ADR as “too much of a mixed economy at the minute”.419 This, together with the fact that the operators are (at least in the case of IBAS) bound by decisions only up to £10,000, makes us doubtful of the value of ADR in practice.

Non-disclosure agreements

397.At the conclusion of a dispute referred to an ADR service, licensees must provide the Commission with a copy of the decision or note of the outcome.420 But they are not required to give the decision any wider publicity; on the contrary, they, and the complainant, are required by the IBAS terms and conditions “to keep the details of the Dispute and IBAS’s ruling confidential and, in particular refrain from making any public comment during or after the Dispute process.”421

398.In the case of settlements of disputes not limited to the contractual process, and hence not covered by the ADR scheme, operators are also required to notify the Gambling Commission of the outcome, but again they have every interest in preventing its wider dissemination, and frequently make the settlement the subject of a non-disclosure agreement (NDA). An example was given to us by Mr Macey:

“one of the companies that were initially dismissive towards me … offered to pay me the money I had lost with them (£1800) and requested I signed a ‘settlement agreement’. The case was primarily centred on the fact that the licence holder had sent me marketing material after I had self-excluded (it also included non-interaction however they were dismissive of this).”

Later Mr Macey made clear that the ‘settlement agreement’ included a non-disclosure provision: “I am likely to be appearing on BBC Radio 4’s ‘You and Yours’ programme on Friday 13th September whereby I intend to publicly talk about this issue and breach the settlement agreement.”422

399.When the industry representatives gave evidence, we asked them if their companies had ever agreed to compensate people suffering from gambling harms only if they signed non-disclosure agreements. Mr Alexander replied “We [GVC] have never done that. We have NDAs in place that are customer-friendly. In 2019, we entered into 28 of these settlement agreements. They have all been disclosed to the Gambling Commission … . We have never forced customers to sign them in the way that you have said.” He added that “there were 28 … they were absolutely not forced, and they were fully disclosed to the Gambling Commission.423

400.This evidence was given on 4 February 2020. We asked for further information on a number of issues. On 2 March we received supplementary evidence from GVC stating:

“At GVC, we do not use “NDAs” per-se in relation to the settlement of customer disputes. We use “Settlement Agreements” … Usually, Settlement Agreements involve us paying a financial sum to the relevant customer. However, we would not offer to pay someone more money in return for signing a settlement agreement … . Confidentiality clauses are commonplace in most, if not all Settlement Agreements, across all industries, where threatened or actual litigation is settled.”424

401.We asked for further clarification of the 28 settlement agreements which Mr Alexander had said were “fully disclosed to the Gambling Commission.” On 27 March we received further supplementary evidence stating:

“Of the 28 settlement agreements referred to by Mr Alexander at the session on 4th February, the Gambling Commission are specifically aware of 4 complaints which have involved the use of a settlement agreement in the last 12 months. … The important position that Mr Alexander was seeking to highlight was that of the 28 agreements, where there is a requirement to inform the Gambling Commission of the underlying facts, we have in the last 12 months complied with this and will continue to do so, and that none of the agreements prevented the customer or third party from speaking to any regulator, including the Gambling Commission about the underlying dispute or the agreement itself.”425

402.It is clear to us that the agreements which GVC prefer not to call NDAs are agreements which almost invariably, if not always, include a provision prohibiting the other party from disclosing the terms of the agreement to anyone other than the regulator. We can understand that, in the course of his oral evidence, Mr Alexander might have been mistaken in saying that all 28 agreements had been “fully disclosed to the Gambling Commission”, but it is unfortunate that we had to ask for further supplementary evidence before the true position was revealed. Finally, although GVC “would not offer to pay someone more money in return for signing a settlement agreement,” we are left with the distinct impression that they would not be prepared to pay any money to someone who was unwilling to sign a settlement agreement with a non-disclosure clause.

403.Mr Taylor told us that “We have signed confidentiality agreements to prevent copycat claims, but nothing prevents the information going to the Gambling Commission, and we would explicitly notify it of those as well.” However, we subsequently received written evidence from Flutter Entertainment plc, the owners of Paddy Power Betfair, which demonstrates the lengths to which they are prepared to go to attempt to confuse what is in fact a very simple issue:

“We welcome the opportunity to clarify the difference between NDAs and settlement agreements, which are terms often used interchangeably despite them being very different. An NDA (or a non-disclosure agreement) is an agreement between two or more parties that contains obligations on those parties to keep certain information confidential. NDAs are used widely for many different business reasons and not simply to settle disputes between parties. NDAs also often do not require one party to make a payment to the other. A settlement agreement, on the other hand, is an agreement between two (or more) parties where the purpose is to specifically settle a dispute. Settlement agreements will invariably include confidentiality obligations on the respective parties, which have the primary purpose of stopping fraudulent copy-cat claims. We would like to place on the record once again that Paddy Power and Betfair do not use NDAs when settling disputes with customers, however we do use settlement agreements. Although our settlement agreements do contain confidentiality provisions, as explained previously, we have never included a provision within any settlement agreement with a customer that would preclude that customer from contacting the Gambling Commission.”426

404.We have already explained why we do not regard NDAs and settlement agreements as “very different” when the settlement agreements “do contain confidentiality provisions”. Our view seems to be shared by William Hill, the relevant part of whose supplementary evidence begins: “Finally, with regard to NDAs or settlement agreements—we have used these in a very small number of cases to settle customer disputes in the interests of both parties without recourse to costly and time consuming legal action.”427

405.The lengthy oral and written evidence we have received from the industry on this issue convinces us of two things. First, the industry is anxious to use non-disclosure clauses in the agreements they reach because the factual background of such agreements reflects little credit on them. And secondly, it is only if the facts behind the settlement of disputes are routinely revealed (assuming the customer so wishes) that this will contribute to improving the conduct of the operators. This lack of transparency, so strongly defended by the industry, is one of the main factors which persuade us that only a wholly independent scheme will be adequate to settle disputes between operators and their customers.

An Ombudsman scheme

406.An ombudsman scheme would satisfy these criteria. As Lydia Thomas said, “Many other industries have an ombudsman, who customers can take their complaints to. Take for example the energy industry, it has an ombudsman, and strict regulations to try and protect consumers from unfairness—why is it not the same in the gambling industry?”428 Gambling with Lives also favoured “an independent ombudsman with responsibility for protecting the individual consumer.”429

407.Dr Moyes told us that while the Commission itself did not have a position on this, he himself was “a bit sceptical”. He added: “My sense is that when complaints come in about gambling, the complainant wants fast action and is not terribly interested in a deep analysis of systems, in the way that in some other sectors—health, for example—the ombudsman plays a really valuable part.”430 When they sent us supplementary evidence, the Commission were still unwilling to take a position: “We are open to exploring with government how this gap in the availability of redress could be filled. The establishment of a gambling ombudsman would likely require a statutory basis. Such a body would need to replace existing ADR providers so that consumers were clear about who to turn to.”431

408.We wholly agree that an ombudsman should replace rather than complement ADR. There are non-statutory schemes which work well, but they rely on the full cooperation of the companies involved. A mandatory ombudsman scheme for the gambling industry would need a degree of coercion which only statute could provide.

409.A precedent for this is provided by the Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS), which settles individual disputes between consumers and businesses that provide financial services: bank accounts, investment products, mortgages, loans, some pension products, PPI etc. Their service is free for consumers, and over one million people a year contact them with their problems. The FOS was set up under Part 16 of the Financial Services and Markets Act 2000. The complaint initially goes to a case handler for informal adjudication, but a consumer who is dissatisfied with the case handler’s assessment can ask an ombudsman to carry out a formal review of the case. The ombudsman’s decision in writing is communicated to both sides. If it is accepted by the consumer, it becomes legally binding on the financial business.

410.A feature of the scheme which seems to us important is its transparency: under section 230A of the Financial Services and Markets Act 2000,432 an ombudsman’s determination must be published unless the ombudsman believes this would be inappropriate. Unless the complainant agrees, the report of the ombudsman’s determination will not disclose any details which would allow the complainant to be identified, but there is no way in which the complainant can be prevented from publicising the determination.

411.IBAS, despite being a provider of ADR services, explained why they favoured a Gambling Ombudsman:

“It is our stated ambition to grow and evolve into an ‘Ombudsman’ member, becoming in the process the first Gambling Ombudsman. We believe that a single, gambling ombudsman would be in the best interests of clarity and consistency in decision making, as well as reducing potential confusion for consumers.”433

Brigid Simmonds, the Chair of the BGC, also told us that IBAS would be quite keen to become an ombudsman, adding: “That is one of the things that the Committee might think about going forward”.434 We have indeed thought about this. Our view is that a provider of ADR services which is already seen by some as having close links to the industry, by which it is directly funded, would not necessarily be seen to have the degree of impartiality required of an ombudsman; but that would be for others to judge once our recommendation has been implemented.

412.Ministers told us: “The National Audit Office has recommended that the government consider reviewing the effectiveness of existing mechanisms for individual redress, and we are considering this recommendation carefully.”435 We believe the Government need look no further.

413.We recommend the setting up of a statutory independent Gambling Ombudsman Service, modelled on the Financial Ombudsman Service, to settle disputes between gambling operators and gamblers. Membership of the service should be a condition of the grant of an operator’s licence.

297 Supplementary written evidence from the Gambling Commission (GAM0116): “The Health Survey England 2020 fieldwork is taking place this calendar year, and the Welsh Problem Gambling Survey (as part of the National Survey for Wales) from April 2020–March 2021. Regrettably, the Scottish Government have not provided space for questions on gambling in the Scotland Health Survey in 2020 but we hope that this will be possible for 2021. At this stage we are not aware of when the NHS in England plans to publish the gambling data from HSE 2020, but if it follows the same pattern as the 2018 HSE release, we could expect this to be published by them around December 2021. The Welsh Government will publish the first tables of National Survey results in June 2021, and the dataset on the UK Data Archive in September 2021.”

298 As explained in paragraph 262 above, the estimate in the 2018 Health Survey was 0.5%, but this difference too is not statistically significant.

299 E.g. in written evidence from Geoff Banks (GAM0003).

300 See paragraph 420, Table 12.

302 Written evidence from Leeds City Council (GAM0038)

303 Steven Sharman, Jenny Dreyer, Mike Aitken, Dr Luke Clark and Dr Henrietta Bowden-Jones, ‘Rates of Problematic Gambling in a British Homeless Sample: A Preliminary Study’, Journal of Gambling Studies, vol 31(2), (2015), pp 525–532: [accessed 8 June 2020]

304 Written evidence from Dr James Banks (GAM0033)

305 Written evidence from Professor Jim Orford (GAM0019)

306 Written evidence from the NatCen for Social Research (GAM0066), quoting from NatCen Social Research prepared for the Gambling Commission, British Gambling Prevalence Survey 2010 (February 2011): [accessed 18 May 2020]

307 Written evidence from the NatCen for Social Research (GAM0066)

308 UCL Centre for Longitudinal Studies, ‘1958 National Child Development Study’: [accessed 18 May 2020]

309 Q 19 (Dr Heather Wardle)

310 Q 19 (Professor Jim Orford)

311 Written evidence from HM Government (GAM0090). Both reviews were to have reported in March 2020, but in Supplementary written evidence from HM Government (GAM0135) (29 April 2020) Ministers explained that as a result of Covid-19, publication of the NIHR report could be expected “in the coming months”, but the PHE review would be delayed until “later in 2020 or early 2021”.

312 Gambling Commission, National Strategy to Reduce Gambling Harms (25 April 2019) p 6: [accessed 28 April 2020]

313 Some estimates suggest the typical problem gambler affects six others on average: Belinda Goodwin, Matthew Browne, Matthew Rockloff and Judy Rose, ‘A typical problem gambler affects six others’, International Gambling Studies, vol. 17(2) (2017): [accessed 18 May 2020]

314 Written evidence from the Gordon Moody Association (GAM0032)

315 Written evidence from Dr James Banks (GAM0033)

316 Written evidence from Dr Heather Wardle, Professor Gerda Reith, Professor Robert D Rogers and Erika Langham (GAM0043)

317 Written evidence from Professor Jim Orford (GAM0019)

318 Written evidence from Dr Carolyn Downs (GAM0049)

319 190 (Dr Luke Clark)

320 US Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders

321 WHO International Classification of Diseases: the ICD-10 Classification of Mental and Behavioural Disorders, F63 Habit and Impulse Disorders, F63.0 Pathological Gambling. ICD-11, which comes into force in 2022, distinguishes between offline and online disorders, and for the first time includes gaming disorders.

322 Q 194 (Dr Luke Clark)

323 Gambling Commission, Gambling-related harm as a public health issue: Briefing paper for Local Authorities and local Public Health providers (February 2018): [accessed 18 May 2020]

324 Paragraphs 308–310

325 Written evidence from Gambling with Lives (GAM0098)

326 Rt Hon Matt Hancock MP, Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, Speech at the Reception for Gambling with Lives, Houses of Parliament, 26 February 2020

327 Q 4 (Tim Baxter)

328 Q 19 (Dr Heather Wardle); also in written evidence from Dr Heather Wardle, Professor Gerda Reith, Professor Robert D Rogers and Erika Langham (GAM0043)

329 Q 24 (Professor Jim Orford)

330 Q 35 (Dr Anna van der Gaag)

331 Q 72 (Marc Etches)

332 Health and Social Care Committee, Drugs Policy (First Report, Session 2019, HC 143)

333 See paragraph 288.

334 Supplementary written evidence from HM Government (GAM0135)

335 See paragraphs 543–557.

336 Written evidence from Gambling with Lives (GAM0098)

337 Written evidence from the NatCen for Social Research (GAM0066)

338 Ann John, Heather Wardle, Sally McManus and Simon Dymond prepared for GambleAware, Scoping Current Evidence and Evidence-Gaps in Research on Gambling-Related Suicide (July 2019): [accessed 18 May 2020]

339 Written evidence from Gambling with Lives (GAM0098)

340 Coroners and Justice Act 2009, section 5(3)

341 The Notification of Death Regulations 2019 (SI 2019/1112)

342 Lisa Hitchen, ‘Compulsive gamblers must get free NHS treatment’, BMJ , vol 334, (2007): [accessed 18 June 2020]

343 Q 179 (Charles Ritchie)

344 Q 212 (Anna Hemmings)

345 Q 136 (Kenny Alexander)

346 Q 136 (Ulrik Bengtsson)

347 Aspinall’s Club Ltd v Fouad Al-Zayat [2008] EWHC 2101 (Comm), judgment of Mr Justice Teare, para 1

348 Gambling Commission, ‘Systemic failings at Caesars Entertainment leads to the departure of three senior managers and sanctions of £13m’: [accessed 13 May 2020]

349 Gambling Commission, ‘Betway to pay £11.6m for failings linked to ‘VIP’ customers’: [accessed 13 May 2020]

350 Gambling Commission, Changes to the licence conditions and codes of practice on age and identity verification for remote gambling: consultation response (February 2019): [accessed 26 May 2020]

351 Written evidence from beBettor Limited (GAM0021)

352 Licence conditions and codes of practice, Part I: Licence condition 6.1.2

353 See paragraph 333.

354 Licence conditions and codes of practice, Part I: Licence condition 17.1.1 and Part II: Social responsibility code provision 3.2.7

355 Licence conditions and codes of practice, Part II: Social responsibility code provision 3.4.1

356 Gambling Commission, Customer interaction - formal guidance for remote gambling operators: Formal guidance note under SR Code 3.4.1 (July 2019): [accessed 11 June 2020]

358 Q 131 (John Coates)

359 Q 130 (Dan Taylor)

360 Q 130 (Brigid Simmonds)

361 Written evidence from RAiG (GAM0113)

362 Written evidence from Information Commissioner’s Office (GAM0119)

363 Q 220 (Alexandra Frean)

364 Written evidence from Lloyds Banking Group (GAM0120)

365 Written evidence from the Betting and Gaming Council (GAM0068)

366 Written evidence from Peter Holloway (GAM0081)

367 Written evidence from Lloyds Banking Group (GAM0120)

368 Q 223 (Alexandra Frean)

369 Ibid.

370 Supplementary written evidence from Starling Bank (GAM0122)

371 Q 221 (Alexandra Frean)

372 Written evidence from Lloyds Banking Group (GAM0120)

373 Q 136 (Conor Grant)

374 Written evidence from Lydia Thomas (GAM0004)

375 Q 61 (Michelle Singlehurst)

376 Q 136 (Conor Grant)

377 Q 136 (Kenny Alexander)

378 Ibid.

379 Q 136 (Dan Taylor)

380 Q 131 (Ulrik Bengtsson)

381 Q 136 (Ulrik Bengtsson)

382 Q 132 (John Coates)

383 Q 131 (Ulrik Bengtsson)

384 Q 131 (Kenny Alexander)

385 Gambling Commission, ‘Gambling Commission and industry collaboration makes progress on safer gambling’: [accessed 13 May 2020]

386 Q 160 (Dr William Moyes)

387 Gambling Commission, ‘Gambling Commission and industry collaboration makes progress on safer gambling’: [accessed 13 May 2020]

388 Licence conditions and codes of practice, Part II: Social responsibility code provisions 3.5.1 and 3.5.3

389 Q 58 (Alex Macey)

390 Gambling Commission, Raising Standards for Consumers: Enforcement Report 2017–18 (June 2018) p 16: [accessed 18 May 2020]

391 Gambling Commission, ‘Commission publishes the reasons for suspending Triplebet’s licence’:’s-licence.aspx [accessed 4 May 2020]

392 GAMSTOP is operated by a not for profit organisation called The National Online Self-Exclusion Scheme Limited.

393 Gambling Commission, ‘Gambling Commission suspend two operator licences for failure to participate in GAMSTOP’: [accessed 4 May 2020]

394 GAMSTOP, ‘About GAMSTOP’: [accessed 4 May 2020]

395 e.g. written evidence from Derek Webb (GAM0027).

396 Written evidence from the European Lotto Betting Association (GAM0007)

397 Gambling Act 2005, section 82

398 Written evidence from the Betting and Gaming Council (GAM0068)

399 Q 98 (Simon Thomas)

400 Graham Calvert v William Hill Credit Limited (2008) EWHC 454 (Ch); and on appeal Graham Calvert v William Hill Credit Limited (2008) EWCA Civ 1427

401 Written evidence from the Gambling Commission (GAM0071)

402 Written evidence from the Betting and Gaming Council (GAM0068)

403 Ibid.

404 Written evidence from BACTA (GAM0050)

405 Written evidence from Rank Group plc (GAM0029)

406 Q 46 (Professor Julia Hörnle)

407 Graham Calvert v William Hill Credit Limited (2008) EWHC 454 (Ch), para 2

408 Graham Calvert v William Hill Credit Limited (2008) EWCA Civ 1427, para 13

409 Inserted by the Financial Services Act 2012, section 24(1)

410 It would be possible for the legislation which created the relevant statutory duty to provide that the Calvert causation defence would not be available as a matter of law. Alternatively, it might provide that the defence would not be available where certain conditions were met; for instance, where the breach of duty had been deliberate, or had been committed recklessly.

411 Written evidence from Gambling with Lives (GAM0098)

412 Licence conditions and codes of practice, Part II: Social responsibility code provision 6.1.1

413 The Alternative Dispute Resolution for Consumer Disputes (Competent Authorities and Information) Regulations 2015 (SI 2015/542). The Regulations have subsequently been amended. They implement Directive 2013/11/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council of 21 May 2013 on alternative dispute resolution for consumer disputes and amending Regulation (EC) No 2006/2004 and Directive 2009/22/EC (OJ L 165 18 June 2013, p.63).

414 Gambling Commission, Alternative dispute resolution (ADR) in the gambling industry: Standards and guidance for ADR providers (October 2018) p 7: [accessed 4 May 2020]

415 Written evidence from IBAS (GAM0048)

416 Ministers told us that in the year to September 2019 IBAS had 5,235 disputes referred to them, but refused to accept 684 of them because they considered that those cases were matters of regulation: Supplementary written evidence from HM Government (GAM0135).

417 IBAS, ‘About Us’: [accessed 4 May 2020]

418 Written evidence from Richard Powell (GAM0044)

419 Q 150 (Neil McArthur)

420 Licence conditions and codes of practice, Part I: Licence condition 15.2.2

421 IBAS, ‘Terms of use’, para 16: [accessed 4 May 2020]

422 Written evidence from Alex Macey (GAM0058)

423 Q 137 (Kenny Alexander)

424 Supplementary written evidence from GVC Holdings Plc (GAM0117)

425 Supplementary written evidence from GVC Holdings Plc (GAM0126)

426 Supplementary written evidence from GambleAware (GAM0128)

427 Supplementary written evidence from William Hill (GAM0118)

428 Written evidence from Lydia Thomas (GAM0004)

429 Written evidence from Gambling with Lives (GAM0098). They also thought an ombudsman should protect “the wider public”, but this would in our view not be the primary aim, though it might also have that result.

430 149 (Dr William Moyes)

431 Supplementary written evidence from the Gambling Commission (GAM0116)

432 Inserted by Financial Services Act 2012, schedule 11, paragraph 7

433 Written evidence from IBAS (GAM0048)

434 Q 137 (Brigid Simmonds)

435 Supplementary written evidence from HM Government (GAM0135)

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