‘Nanny-state’ Gambling Reforms Creeping Into Other Areas of Society

In online casinos, players are already subject to rigorous affordability checks that determine how much players can spend when wagering online.

Brits are embracing the proposed nanny state policies the government has been discussing lately. Many people call for even stricter health policies—obesity, alcohol, diet and exercise, and gambling. Brits want to see advertisement restrictions related to these areas, price regulations on healthy foods and limits on gambling.

The government are yet to take definite action as the nation faces a mounting public health crisis—smoking, drinking, poor dietary choices and lack of exercise. These are real threats that caused life expectancy to stall in recent years.

The timing could be better. The world is still reeling from the global health crisis the Covid-19 pandemic presented. Our economic climate is uncertain with mounting costs of living.

Dropping junk food prices, limiting advertising and restricting meal deals could be counterproductive to the current economic reality. The same goes for other goods. Prices and taxes on alcohol should be adjusted, but it likely has to wait until we see an uptick in the economy.

Out of all the areas, online gambling is seeing tangible change. It’s also what Britain has developed nanny state policies for. For example, telling people how to spend their money, with younger gamblers being limited to a £2 limit in slot machines.

In online casinos, players are already subject to rigorous affordability checks that determine how much players can spend when wagering online. From a public health perspective, this is all good and well. But the changes haven’t been without criticism. One proposal for new gambling regulations is to raise the minimum gambling age to 25, with additional talks of barring people under 25 from smoking and drinking.

These proposals could set a tricky precedent in undermining the fact that you are considered an adult at 18. Something far less controversial is the call for more significant restrictions on gambling advertisements or even banning gambling ads.

Over the past ten years, many countries have introduced legislation for online casinos and sports wagering. Our neighbours across the Irish Sea are ironing out the scope of the Gambling Regulatory Authority of Ireland (GRAI) to introduce better online gambling regulations. Further across the ocean, in the United States, many states have legalised online casinos and sports wagering in the last couple of years.

In states like Pennsylvania, where online casinos have accepted players since 2019, the local government is reaping the benefits of legalising gambling. Much the same way online casinos are allowed to operate here. But similarly to the United Kingdom, the move to legalise online gambling hasn’t been without obstacles. Residents in states like Pennsylvania also call for stricter regulations for online gambling advertisements.

Gambling is hardly necessary to survive; getting an online casino deal and a meal deal for junk food are very different things. While the government can’t regulate prices for food in the current economic environment, they could most definitely impose restrictions on gambling advertisements.

Earlier this summer, Mark Wall, Labour Party Spokesperson on Defence, Tourism and Sport, called for an outright ban on ads as the current legislative framework for gambling is under discussion. The motivation is that vulnerable people susceptible to gambling addiction get bombarded with online casino and betting ads in print, broadcast, websites, and social media.

Currently, a new bill is coming into effect, which will ban gambling advertisements during prime hours of the day, between 05.30 am and 09.00 pm. Outside those hours, gambling operators can continue their onslaught from the moment we get up in the morning to the moment we sleep at night.

At the same time, the government recently said they won’t put a permanent ban on gambling ads. Last month, in September, the Minister for Sport, Gambling and Civil Society, Stuart Andrew, told MPs that the government had conducted research which concluded that there was little evidence that gambling ads led to harm among users.

This assessment came under fire as experts strongly disagreed, stating that there’s a clear connection between advertisements and gambling harm. For the time being, it’s been concluded that the government will revisit the topic once more research is conducted, proving that advertising is causing harm to the general population.