The UK wants its gamblers to know that the house always wins. Like, seriously, it always wins.
But now the government is hoping to even the odds, just a little bit, by getting the word out about the perils of addiction. A long-delayed public health white paper reviewing the legalized gambling industry is expected to soon drop in the UK — complete with a litany of sweeping reform proposals.
It doesn’t take a public health expert to know gambling can be addictive but compared to other vices like cigarettes or alcohol, gambling hasn’t exactly faced the same level of scrutiny or regulation for how it markets itself to potential customers. In the UK, online gambling is also becoming increasingly popular: A recent survey from the country’s Gambling Commission found respondents both male and female and across virtually every age group participate in online gambling at higher rates than just four years ago.
And it’s becoming a public health problem. A YouGov poll found that 1.4 million British adults, or roughly 3%, were “problem gamblers.” Unsurprisingly, the same group represents gambling company’s best customers:
- About 60% of industry profits stem from just 5% of users, according to a 2021 parliamentary report. One likely reform, sources told to the Financial Times, is the elimination of “VIP” promotional incentives for power users.
- Other suggested reforms include a possible ban on Premier League front-of-jersey sponsorships and requiring gambling operators to send 1% of gross yields to gambling harm reduction services.
Check Yourself: Another proposal being floated, according to the FT: automatic “affordability” and credit checks for users who lose up to £125 a month or £500 annually, though the complexity of such an undertaking likely means the proposed regulation will be watered down. In other words, what happens in Vegas may stay in Vegas. But what happens on an app on your smartphone, well, that follows you everywhere.