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A summary of Terms of Reference and Call for Evidence: Review of UK Gambling Act (2005)

Ahead of the first Gambling Commission response to its first batch of consultations launched last summer Andrew Cotton from Irwin Mitchell's Regulatory and Compliance team, re-publishes his article from April 2023 on the background to the Review of the Gambling Act 2005 and the government’s Call for Evidence published in December 2020. The review of gambling legislation was a manifesto commitment by all three Westminster parties but it took over two years for the White Paper to be published because of repeated changes to ministerial appointments. The government intends to implement significant measures to assist the land based industry before the summer all of which can be achieved through secondary legislation. Consultation on these changes also took place last summer and DCMS is also expected to publish its response in the coming weeks. 

With the publication of the UK Government’s White Paper expected shortly, this is a summary of the Terms of Reference and the six Key Areas that have been under review, (referencing the paragraph number), along with the evidence sought.  The Review of the Gambling Act 2005 was launched on 8 December 2020 and the full Terms of Reference and Call for Evidence were set out in this Policy Paper

The Call for Evidence was published at the same time as the Government’s response to the House of Lords Gambling Industry Committee Report: Gambling Harm - Time for Action, which was published in July 2020.The government’s response published on 8 December 2020 can be found here

Terms of Reference


14.  The Government wants all those who choose to gamble in Great Britain to be able to do so in a safe way.  The sector should have up to date legislation and protections, with a strong regulator with the powers and resources needed to oversee a responsible industry that offers customer choice, protects players, provides employment, and contributes to the economy.

Objectives of the Review

15.  The Government is reviewing the Gambling Act (2005) to ensure our regulatory framework can protect children and vulnerable people, prevent gambling-related crime, and keep gambling fair and open in the digital age. Through this Review, the Government’s objectives are to:

15.1.  Examine whether changes are needed to the system of gambling regulation in Great Britain to reflect changes to the gambling landscape since 2005, particularly due to technological advances

15.2.  Ensure there is an appropriate balance between consumer freedoms and choice on the one hand, and prevention of harm to vulnerable groups and wider communities on the other

15.3.  Make sure customers are suitably protected whenever and wherever they are gambling, and that there is an equitable approach to the regulation of the online and the land based industries.


16.  To deliver these objectives, the Review will be wide-ranging in scope.  It will have particular regard to:

16.1.  The protection of online gamblers, including rules to minimise the risks associated with online products themselves, and the use of technology to support harm prevention

16.2.  The positive and negative impacts of the advertising and marketing of gambling products and brands

16.3.  The effectiveness of our regulatory system, including the Gambling Commission's powers and resources to regulate and keep pace with the licensed market and tackle unlicensed operators, and funding flows from the industry to the regulator

16.4.  The availability and suitability of redress arrangements for individual customers who feel they have been treated unfairly by gambling operators

16.5.  Children’s access to Category D slot machines, the effectiveness of age controls, protections for young adults, and the age limit for society lotteries (currently available to 16 and 17-year olds)

16.6.  The outcome of changes to the land based sector introduced in the Gambling Act 2005, particularly for casinos, and whether they are still appropriate in a digital age

17.  In considering all of these issues, we will pay particular attention to children, young people, young adults, and others who may be particularly vulnerable to the risks posed by gambling.  We have asked specific questions on these issues in various sections of the call for evidence.

18.  The 2019 Manifesto committed to tackle issues around credit card misuse and loot boxes (features in video games which contain randomised items and can be purchased for real money).  Credit cards were banned for all gambling except for lotteries in shops in April 2020, and in September we launched a bespoke call for evidence on loot boxes which will, as needed, support this wider Review of the Gambling Act.

Key area one: Online protections – players and products


23.  The current regulatory framework for both online and land based gambling puts player protection obligations on gambling companies as conditions of their operating licences, with breaches subject to compliance and enforcement action by the Gambling Commission.  Most forms of land based gambling are not subject to statutory limits on the amount people can gamble at one time or in one session, the only exception being gaming machines where stake and prize limits are set out in regulations.  There are no statutory limits for any form of online gambling.

27.  However, concerns have been raised that the current system of tailored online protections is not sufficiently effective at preventing gambling harm.  There have been too many examples of gamblers being able to spend very large sums of money which they could not afford in short spaces of time without effective operator intervention, leading to devastating effects for individuals and their families.

28.  Concerns have also been raised about the nature of online gambling products themselves.  Online gamblers can access a wide variety of products, from National Lottery games, to sports betting, bingo, casino games and slots.  While no gambling product is risk free, certain products are associated with higher problem gambling rates, just as with land based gambling.  For instance, online gambling on slots, casinos or bingo games is associated with a higher rate (9.2%) than online betting with a bookmaker (2.5%).  Licensees are already required to design their products responsibly and they must comply with the Gambling Commission’s Remote Technical Standards.

29.  We are seeking evidence on these current online protections, and whether changes are needed at the product and/ or account level to improve player safeguards.

30.  We are also seeking evidence on so called ‘white label’ agreements, where a company which does not itself hold a licence from the Gambling Commission provides the brand for a gambling website which is operated by an existing licensee.  The Commission has made clear, including through enforcement action, that licensees will be held to account for the activities of their white label partners. However, concerns have been raised that the companies who provide the brands may be seeking to use white label arrangements as they would be unable to meet the GB regulatory standards required to obtain a licence themselves, and that this therefore poses risks to consumers.  There are currently over 700 white label partners in the industry.

31.  The Government is also conscious that the online gambling market is fast evolving and the legislative framework must give sufficient flexibility and futureproofing to respond to emerging risks.


Q1: What evidence is there on the effectiveness of the existing online protections in preventing gambling harm?

Q2: What evidence is there for or against the imposition of greater controls on online product design? This includes (but is not limited to) stake, speed, and prize limits or pre- release testing.

Q3: What evidence is there for or against the imposition of greater controls on online gambling accounts, including but not limited to deposit, loss, and spend limits?

Q4: What is the evidence on whether any such limits should be on a universal basis or targeted at individuals based on affordability or other considerations?

Q5: Is there evidence on how the consumer data collected by operators could be better deployed and used to support the Government’s objectives?

Q6: How are online gambling losses split across the player cohort? For instance, what percentage of GGY do the top and bottom 10% of spenders account for, and how does this vary by product?

Q7: What evidence is there from behavioural science or other fields that the protections which operators must already offer, such as player-set spend limits, could be made more effective in preventing harm?

Q8: Is there evidence that so called ‘white label’ arrangements pose a particular risk to consumers in Great Britain?

Q9: What evidence, if any, is there to suggest that new and emerging technologies, delivery and payment methods such as blockchain and crypto currencies could pose a particular risk to gambling consumers?

Q10: Is there any additional evidence in this area the Government should consider?

Key area two: Advertising, sponsorship and branding


32.  The Gambling Act 2005 removed longstanding broadcasting advertising restrictions, allowing for the advertising of all gambling products subject to new controls, whereas previously only bingo and lottery adverts had been permitted on TV and radio.  Allowing all gambling companies to advertise all forms of gambling in any media like any other product (albeit with the specific controls) was one of the most visible changes brought about by the Act.

34.  The UK Advertising Codes make clear that all gambling advertising must be socially responsible, it must not be targeted at under 18s, and its content must not encourage irresponsible gambling behaviour. Gambling adverts are not permitted to be shown in or around children’s programmes, or programmes of particular appeal to children.  The ASA is responsible for enforcing rules on the content and placement of gambling advertising which are part of the UK Advertising Code.  Compliance with these codes is also a licence condition so breaches can result in enforcement action by the Gambling Commission.

36.  The licence conditions also set additional controls on gambling advertising.  These include provisions requiring that all inducements to gamble (such as free bets and bonuses) must be compliant with consumer law, that all reasonable steps must be taken to prevent direct marketing to self- excluded customers, that adverts must not be placed on piracy websites, and that operators are responsible for their marketing affiliates.

38.  A significant channel for gambling brand marketing is sponsorship of sports teams and events, including shirt sponsorship and similar deals with sports bodies.  Commercial arrangements with gambling operators are a significant source of income for British sports and teams, particularly horse racing and football teams. While the Government has always been clear that sporting bodies must consider their responsibility to the welfare of fans and supporters when agreeing such deals, we have equally recognised their right to benefit from commercial deals.  However, with growing public concern about the relationship between sport and gambling, we are seeking evidence on the positive and negative outcomes of this relationship to make sure we can strike an appropriate balance in developing policy.


Q11: What are the benefits or harms caused by allowing licensed gambling operators to advertise?

Q12: What, if any, is the evidence on the effectiveness of mandatory safer gambling messages in adverts in preventing harm?

Q13: What evidence is there on the harms or benefits of licensed operators being able to make promotional offers, such as free spins, bonuses and hospitality, either within or separately to VIP schemes?

Q14: What is the positive or negative impact of gambling sponsorship arrangements across sports, esports and other areas?

Q15: Is there any additional evidence in this area the Government should consider, including in relation to particularly vulnerable groups?

Key area three: The Gambling Commission’s powers and resources


41.  The Gambling Act gave the Gambling Commission broad powers to enable it to tackle new and emerging risks through licence conditions on operators without the Government having to take legislation through Parliament. The Commission has used these powers to implement changes such as the ban on credit card gambling, and new rules around age and identity verification before allowing someone to gamble online. However, it is important to keep the legislation under review to ensure that the Commission and our regulatory framework can continue to respond effectively to the risk of gambling- related harm.  This includes understanding the scale of issues, such as the online black market and operator malpractice, and whether the Commission has sufficient powers under the current framework to address them.

42.  Ensuring the Gambling Commission is able to regulate effectively and minimise harm is a priority for both the Review and separate ongoing work.  The Government is continuing to work with the Gambling Commission to respond to the recommendations made by the National Audit Office and subsequently by the Public Accounts Committee (PAC).  Work is already underway to address many of the points they raised, including improving evaluation of regulatory outcomes, capitalising on available data and intelligence, and monitoring the impact of Covid-19 on gambling.  We are also calling for evidence on online protections, the minimum age for playing society lotteries, and consumer redress as part of this Review.

44.  The NAO and recent Parliamentary reports have recommended that the Government should review the Commission’s current fees system to ensure that it has the funding and flexibility it needs to regulate the industry proactively and effectively.  We are already considering proposals from the Gambling Commission for an uplift in fees under the current provisions in the 2005 Gambling Act, and as part of this Review we will look more widely at the framework for funding flows from the sector.

45.  Separately from licence fees paid to the Gambling Commission, gambling duties are collected by HMRC and payable to the exchequer.  These amounted to around £3 billion in 2019-20. The Government also has a power in the current legislation to place a levy on operators payable to the Gambling Commission, which it could use to fund projects related to gambling related harm or its wider regulatory work.  The Government has always been clear that should the industry’s voluntary system for supporting projects and services related to problem gambling fail to deliver the level of funding necessary, it would look at the case for alternative funding mechanisms and all options would be considered, including a levy.


Q16: What, if any, evidence is there to suggest that there is currently a significant black market for gambling in Great Britain, or that there is a risk of one emerging?

Q17: What evidence, if any, is there on the ease with which consumers can access black market gambling websites in Great Britain?

Q18: How easy is it for consumers to tell that they are using an unlicensed illegal operator?

Q19: Is there evidence on whether the Gambling Commission has sufficient investigation, enforcement and sanctioning powers to effect change in operator behaviour and raise standards?

Q20: If existing powers are considered to be sufficient, is there scope for them to be used differently or more effectively?

Q21: What evidence is there on the potential benefits of changing the fee system to give the Gambling Commission more flexibility to adjust its fees, or potentially create financial incentives to compliance for operators?

Q22: What are the barriers to high quality research to inform regulation or policy making, and how can these be overcome? What evidence is there that a different model to the current system might improve outcomes?

Q23: Is there evidence from other jurisdictions or regulators on the most effective system for recouping the regulatory and societal costs of gambling from operators, for instance through taxes, licence fees or statutory levies?

Q24: Is there any additional evidence in this area the Government should consider?

Key area four: Consumer redress


47.  The current regulatory framework provides protections for individuals in setting clear rules which operators must follow.  Where operators breach these rules, they are subject to compliance and enforcement action by the Gambling Commission, including regulatory settlements and fines or licence suspension and revocation where necessary.  However, concerns have been raised in recent Parliamentary and other reports that this does not normally provide any compensation or redress to the individual customer harmed by the operator’s failings.

50.  The Gambling Commission does not investigate and adjudicate individual disputes by issuing a binding decision on the licensee.  Around a quarter of the complaints the Commission’s contact centre receives relate to alleged social responsibility failings by operators, and while these are useful intelligence and can trigger investigations, the regulator cannot force any kind of redress for the individuals involved. However, in cases which end in a regulatory settlement agreed with the Gambling Commission, operators typically agree to divest money so they do not benefit from their breaches, and this money is often paid to identified victims such as victims of crime where stolen money has been used to fund gambling.

51.  As has been highlighted in recent reports, this means that the primary route for individuals to seek redress for social responsibility failings on the part of operators is through the courts, which can be costly and time consuming.

While redress through the courts is a common mechanism across the economy, some other sectors have particular vehicles to facilitate easier consumer redress, such as an ombudsman. We are seeking evidence on the case for changes to the consumer redress arrangements, and the benefits and disadvantages of any alternatives to the current approach.


Q25: Is there evidence of a need to change redress arrangements in the gambling sector?

Q26: If so, are there redress arrangements in other sectors or internationally which could provide a suitable model for the gambling sector?

Q27: Individual redress is often equated with financial compensation for gambling losses.  However, there may be risks associated with providing financial lump sums to problem and recovering gamblers, or risks of creating a sense that gambling can be ‘risk free’.  Are there other such considerations the Government should weigh in considering possible changes to redress arrangements?

Q28: Is there any additional evidence in this area the Government should consider?

Key area five: Age limits and verification


55.  The age of 18 is widely recognised as the age at which one becomes an adult.  At 18, people gain full citizenship rights and responsibilities, and are trusted to participate in activities which carry risks of harm, such as drinking alcohol and smoking tobacco.  As we recently announced, we will be increasing the minimum age for sale of National Lottery games to 18 in 2021.  This reflects the changes to the games portfolio we have seen since its launch in 1994, and emerging evidence of risk to young people from playing National Lottery games.

56.  Given this planned change, the Government now intends to review the minimum age for society lottery play.  Under the Gambling Act, society lotteries are only permitted for the benefit of non-commercial organisations such as charities, or sport, athletics or culture clubs.  They raise money for specific good causes and are limited in size in order to ensure they remain distinct from the National Lottery.

57.  The overall society lotteries sector is small in comparison with the National Lottery.  It has annual sales of around £830 million (compared to approximately £7.9 billion for the National Lottery in 2019/20), generating returns to good causes of £367 million (compared to £1.8 billion for the National Lottery in 2019/20).  The sector has a low risk of harm (being associated with a problem gambling rate of 1.5% for those that play, compared to 1.0% for National Lottery  draw-based games and 1.8% for  scratchcards).  We believe the number of 16 and 17-year olds playing society lotteries is very low.

59.  Under 18s are also currently legally permitted to play category D gaming machines, such as coin pushers, crane grabs, and slot machines with a maximum stake of 10p per spin.  These products are typically found in arcades at seaside locations, and 4% of children surveyed in 2019 reported having played on a fruit or slot machine in the previous week.

60.  On 12th November, BACTA (the trade body for the arcade sector) announced that its members’ code would be amended to stop under 18’s playing on Category D cash payout fruit machines.  This was a welcome move in response to public concern.  The Government is now seeking evidence on the advantages and disadvantages of any type of slot machine style gaming machines being legally accessible to children.

61.  There have also been calls for increased protection for those who are no longer children but have only recently reached an age when they are legally able to gamble.  Problem gambling rates among 16-24 year olds are lower than among those aged 25-34, but there have been instances of individual young adults suffering substantial gambling harm at a time of significant change in their life, for instance moving away from home or managing money for the first time (perhaps including a student loan).  We are pleased that the industry has recently introduced new protections for those who are under 25 years old, including age gating of adverts and in most circumstances exclusion from VIP schemes.  While demographics are already recognised as a risk factor in the Gambling Commission’s formal guidance on customer interaction, we are seeking evidence on whether any further specific protections are needed for those adults who are legally allowed to gamble but may still be particularly vulnerable to harm because of their age, for instance under 25s.


Q29: What evidence is there on the effectiveness of current measures to prevent illegal underage gambling in land based venues and online?

Q30: Is there evidence of best practice, for instance from other jurisdictions, in how to prevent illegal underage gambling?

Q31: What, if any, evidence is there on the number of 16 and 17-year olds participating in society lotteries?

Q32: What, if any, evidence is there to show an association between legal youth engagement in society lotteries and problem gambling (as children or adults)?

Q33: Is there comparative evidence to support society lotteries and the National Lottery having different minimum ages to play?

Q34: What are the advantages and disadvantages of category D slot machine style gaming machines being legally accessible to children?

Q35: Is there evidence on how the characteristics of category D slot machine style gaming machines (for instance whether they pay out in cash or tickets) factor into their association with harm in childhood or later life?

Q36: What, if any, is the evidence that extra protections are needed for the youngest adults (for instance those aged between 18 and 25)?

Q37: What evidence is there on the type of protections which might be most effective for this age group?

Q38: Is there any additional evidence in this area the Government should consider?

Key area six: Land based gambling


63.  It is important for the Government that people are protected wherever they gamble and that there is a strong gambling industry which supports jobs and individual choice, and an equitable approach to regulation across different types of operators.  In 2019, the Gambling Commission found that land based gambling premises accounted for over 80% of the total workforce and contributed just under half of gross gambling yield for the industry in Great Britain (excluding lotteries).  Land based gambling (for example casinos and seaside arcades) can also support other industries such as tourism.  The sector is, however, continuing to contract in comparison with online gambling.  From March 2016 to March 2020, the number of gambling premises operated by Gambling Commission licensees fell by 13%.

65.  The Review will consider whether the current rules governing land based gambling are still relevant in the digital age.  For example, the land based gambling industry is one of the few industries restricted from using cashless payments. We are seeking evidence on whether having such restrictions in legislation helps prevent harm, and the degree to which it limits customer choice and therefore the land based sector’s ability to compete with online.  Similarly, we will consider evidence on the existing and developing protections to de- anonymise play in land based venues, including the impact that might have on the effectiveness of self-exclusion schemes.  We are particularly keen to receive evidence of customer demand to make or not make changes.

66.  We will also consider the legislative landscape for casinos, in particular the distinction between the new style casinos allowed by the 2005 Act and the majority of casinos whose licences align with provisions originating in the Gambling Act 1968.  It was not possible to properly review the operation of the new types of casino in 2014 as previously intended, because at that stage only two Large and no Small casinos had opened, out of a potential sixteen licences on offer.  However, four Large and three Small casinos are now open.

67.  Finally, we are seeking evidence on whether local authorities and other licensing authorities have the powers they need in respect of gambling premises to effectively fulfil their role.  The Commission works in partnership with licensing authorities to regulate gambling.  In doing so, the Commission will tend to focus on operators and issues of national or regional significance, and licensing authorities will take the lead on regulating gambling locally, including making decisions on applications for a premises licence.  The Commission and licensing authorities may work directly together on particular issues, for example where it may establish a precedent or help build capacity and learning to be rolled out more widely.  Licensing authorities are required to develop, consult on, and publish a statement of licensing policy every three years with regards to the principles they propose to apply in exercising their functions under 2005 Act.


Q39: What, if any, changes in the rules on land based gambling would support the Government’s objectives as set out in the document? Please provide evidence to support this position, for instance how changes have worked in other countries.

Q40: What evidence is there on potential benefits or harms of permitting cashless payment for land based gambling?

Q41: Is there evidence that changes to machine allocations and/ or machine to table ratios in casinos to allow them to have more machines would support the Government’s objectives?

Q42: What is the evidence that the new types of casino created by the 2005 Act meet (or could meet) their objectives for the sector; supporting economic regeneration, tourism and growth while reducing risks of harm?

Q43: Is there evidence on whether licensing and local authorities have enough powers to fulfil their responsibilities in respect of premises licenses?

Q44: Is there evidence that we should moderately increase the threshold at which local authorities need to individually authorise the number of category D and C gaming machines in alcohol licensed premises?

Q45: Is there any additional evidence in this area the Government should consider?


What to do next? 

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