The Member of Parliament for the resort of Blackpool and Chairman of the UK’s All Party Parliamentary Group on Gambling, Scott Benton MP, has stated that excessively puritanical gambling reforms will put billions of pounds in vital tax revenue at risk.
Writing in the Daily Express, Mr. Benton says that although Gambling Minister, Chris Philp, states that reform of the gambling industry is long overdue, the Government will need to tread carefully. He adds that whilst taking a puritanical view may seem like an honourable position, the implications of some of the proposals put forward by anti-gambling campaigners will be far-reaching.
The most controversial of these proposals would be the introduction of affordability checks. These would mean that those wanting to place a bet, for example, would be required to provide bank details and other personal financial information. There was subsequently one particular study that suggested that 95% of those asked would refuse to share bank details if required to do so in order to bet. Add to this the cost of implementing such a rigorous system and it is not difficult to imagine significant job losses across an industry that currently employs over 100,000 people in the UK.
Mr. Benton does not believe it is viable for any government to force people into unemployment. He also points out that in 2020/21, during the peak of the pandemic restrictions facing sport, betting and gaming tax receipts amounted to nearly £2.8bn. Mr. Benton quite rightly wonders how the Treasury might replace any reduction in this figure as a result of punitive anti-gambling proposals.
Finally, Mr. Benton highlights the inevitable impact on the nation’s high streets if thousands of retail betting shops were closed as a result of being unviable. Retail betting shops are the last bastion of the cash bettor and there are many people who – for entirely legitimate and personal reasons – wish to gamble privately. These people do not bet online, they use physical locations where cash is an accepted currency. If these proposals are put into law, these people will vanish and the outlets they use will be closed. It really is that simple.
Mr. Benton concludes by reminding his audience that the UK is a world leader in betting and gaming. It is home to pioneering technology and some of the biggest gaming companies in the world. It is an industry to be proud of, not one to penalise. He closes by urging the Department for Culture, Media & Sport to tread carefully when considering the outcomes of the Gambling Act Review.