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New UK Gambling Laws Come Into Force

by Jason Gorringe, Tax-News.com, London

03 September 2007


New gambling laws to protect children and vulnerable people, cut crime and keep games fair were in force from Saturday 1st September.

The Gambling Act 2005, which replaces legislation dating as far back as 1845, will govern nearly all forms of gambling including: gaming in arcades and adult gaming centres; betting; bingo; casinos; gambling in clubs and pubs; lotteries (except the National Lottery) and remote gambling.

The Act creates the Gambling Commission, one of the most powerful gambling regulators in the world. It will be able to levy unlimited fines, withdraw licences, bring prosecutions, enter premises, seize goods and suspend and void bets.

The Act also gives a new role to local authorities, empowering more than 1500 licensing officers (alongside 50 specialist Gambling Commission compliance officers) to inspect gambling premises to enforce the new laws.

Key changes to gambling regulation include that:

  • For the first time, betting shops and remote gambling sites based in the UK will be governed by a dedicated regulator, the Gambling Commission.
  • Local authorities will be able to impose sanctions on operators, including limiting opening hours and reducing numbers of gaming machines.
  • Local people will be able to object to new gambling licences and seek reviews of existing ones.
  • New codes governing advertising come into force, requiring ads to be socially responsible and banning the use of models under 25 or linking gambling to sexual success.
  • Adverts from outside Europe that fail to meet the UK's strict regulatory requirements will be banned.
  • TV advertisements will be allowed for the first time, but subject to a voluntary 9pm watershed (with the exemption of betting ads during sports events).
  • The membership requirement on casinos is lifted.
  • Bingo clubs will be able to offer rollover jackpots.
  • Questions on phone-in quizzes on TV and radio must be harder. This is to prevent pay-to-enter phone quizzes that are too easy operating as if they were lotteries and therefore evading limits on stakes and prizes and the legal requirement for licensed lotteries to give 20% of profits to charity.
  • Gambling operators will be required to display prominently information about responsible gambling and how to get help for problems. They will also have to work proactively to prevent underage gambling and contribute to problem gambling treatment and research, education and public awareness.
  • Betting cheats, including sportspeople, will face a two year jail sentence.
  • UK-based betting operators will be required to pass information to sports bodies to prevent cheating.
  • Gambling debts will become legally enforceable, helping to ensure those who win get paid.

Sports Minister Gerry Sutcliffe announced on Friday that:

"Many people like to gamble, and for the vast majority it's harmless fun. This has and always will be the case. But what has changed is the way people gamble. It used to be that you had to leave the house to place a bet, but advances in technology have changed that - TVs, home computers and mobile phones have become the digital equivalent of a betting slip and casino chip."

"The Government brought in the Gambling Act because most of our laws were nearly 40 years old and these developments were going unchecked and unregulated. That's why 1 September is so important. The Gambling Act will give the Gambling Commission and local authorities unprecedented powers to ensure gambling is conducted fairly, children and vulnerable people are protected and crime is kept out."

The Gambling Act received Royal Assent in April 2005 and on 1 October 2005 the Gambling Commission was established. Since then over 50 pieces of secondary legislation have been laid after due consultation with industry, local authorities and other stakeholders. The Gambling Commission has also published licensing conditions, codes of practice and other guidance.

The Gambling Act replaces nearly all existing gambling legislation including: the Gaming Act 1845, the Betting, Gaming and Lotteries Act 1963, the Gaming Act 1968 and the Lotteries and Amusements Act 1976.

A comprehensive report in our Intelligence Report series examining offshore e-commerce and online gaming is available in the Lowtax Library at http://www.lowtaxlibrary.com/asp/subs_reports.asp and a description of the report can be seen at http://www.lowtaxlibrary.com/asp/description_report6.asp

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