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Anne Lindner

UK Gambling Review Body Releases Report

17 July 2001

If the British Gambling Review Body has its way, online casinos will be made legal in the United Kingdom.

In a report released today, the group made a number of recommendations on the future of all types of gambling in the United Kingdom. The Gambling Review Report calls for the government to strengthen regulations to protect children and those vulnerable to gambling and to prevent crime. In addition, the report calls for a modernization of the industry--and, notably, the legalization of online casinos and casino advertising.

In chapter 30 of the 260-page report, the group writes that it was charged with considering the state of the gambling industry in light of the growth of e-commerce and technical growth. Online casinos, currently illegal in the United Kingdom, received the group's favor.

According to the report: "We are clear that it would not be right to try to ban on-line gaming in the U.K., and it would not, in any case, be feasible to do that."

Along with legalizing online casino gambling, the report contains several other recommendations, including the following:

  • Licensed online gambling sites should be permitted to advertise in Great Britain.

  • Online gambling operators seeking a license from the Gambling Commission should, at the minimum, be registered as British companies, place their servers in Great Britain and use U.K. Web addresses for their gambling sites.

  • The Gambling Commission should inspect and test all online gaming software systems to make sure their results are random.

  • Registered punters who play online should be required to provide proof of identity before they can play. Identification standards should be comparable to those of land-based casinos.

  • Online gaming operators should set up clocks and counting systems that alert players how much money they have won and lost and display them on the screen at regular intervals.

  • Gambling sites should provide players with information about problem gambling and treatment services and links to those services.

  • Site operators should be required to allow players to set up maximum stakes and limits and to self-ban.

  • Prizes won by people under 18 years old should be forfeited

British sites currently can't offer bingo or casino games online, although it is legal for a bookmaker to offer betting online. It is illegal for British residents to gamble online using offshore websites or for overseas operators to offer Internet gambling to British residents.

The report said online gambling should be regulated because it "should be seen as just another way of delivering a service." Certain characteristics of online gambling make regulation of the activity desirable, the report continued, including that it is available 24 hours a day and is easy to do. The report also predicts regulation will be needed because Internet gambling will increase the accessibility of gambling, especially to people under the age of 25, which is the age group with the highest incidence of problem gambling.

The review body apparently wrestled with classic issues concerning freedom versus order. In chapter three of the report, the group outlines that its central problem was balancing freedom of choice with the fear that that same freedom might endanger individuals or society. The report states that while it is important for people to choose themselves whether or not to gamble, it is also important for certain safeguards to be in place since problem gaming can cause psychological and financial damage to those who do it as well as their families.

"Our proposals generally move in the direction of allowing greater freedom for the individual to gamble in ways, at times and in places than is permitted under current legislation," the report said. "This move to greater freedom is balanced by rather tighter controls on the freedom of young people to gamble and by some tighter controls over those who provide gambling services."

The independent gambling review body was chaired by Sir Alan Budd, the provost of the Queen's College in the University of Oxford. In all, the report contains 176 recommendations on the £42 billion-per-year U.K. gambling industry.

The future of the report is yet to be determined. Budd and Sports Minister Richard Caborn will travel the country in the upcoming months to hear views on the proposed changes.

"This is something which will affect us all and I want to know what people really think before I decide on the way ahead," he said.

England's last gambling review was carried out by a royal commission under Lord Rothschild; it took two years to complete and was published in 1978. The current report took one year to complete, and the review body received more than 200 written submissions and held more than 20 sessions for oral evidence.

Gambling Review Report:

Chapters 1-3
Chapters 4-6
Chapters 6-8
Chapters 8-10
Chapters 10-14
Chapters 15-17
Chapters 18-21
Chapters 21-23
Chapters 24-30
Annex A-I
Annex J

UK Gambling Review Body Releases Report is republished from
Anne Lindner
Anne Lindner