House of Lords Library

Gambling-related Harm

Published Wednesday, September 4, 2019

This House of Lords Library Briefing has been prepared in advance of the forthcoming question for short debate on gaming and gambling due to place on 11 September 2019.

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Although there is no explicit definition for gambling-related harm, the Gambling Commission, which is responsible for regulating gambling and supervising gaming law in Great Britain, define the term as covering “adverse impacts from gambling on the health and wellbeing of individuals, families, communities and society”. Gambling-related harms can include: financial instability; disruption or erosion of partnerships and familial relationships; physical ill-health; and psychological distress.

Gambling in gaming is varied and can comprise many forms. This includes gaming machines and in-game purchases. For example, loot boxes provide players with the opportunity to acquire an unknown quantity and quality of items for use within the game.

Examining participation data through quarterly telephone and online surveys on gambling behaviour in Great Britain in 2018, the Gambling Commission found that 46 percent of respondents aged 16 or over had participated in at least one form of gambling in the month prior to the survey. The commission noted that this figure had remained stable since the previous year.

The latest annual survey by the Gambling Commission found that 14% of 11 to 16-year-olds (450,000) spent their own money on a gambling activity in the week prior to the survey. The commission also found that 31% of young people had paid or used in-game items to open a loot box. This is compared to other potentially harmful activities, the rate of gambling in the past week among young people (14%) is higher than the rates of drinking alcohol (13%), smoking cigarettes (4%) and taking illegal drugs (2%).

In 2016, the Government launched a review into gaming machines and social responsibility measures. As part of this, it published a consultation in October 2017 focusing on the maximum stakes at gaming machines and measures for the industry to reduce gambling-related harm. In response to the consultation, the Government made several proposals, including reducing the maximum stake on fixed odds betting terminals from £100 to £2.

In February 2019, the Labour Party proposed controls on online gambling, including caps on the amount that consumers can gamble. Tom Watson, the deputy leader of Labour, has also called for the Gambling Commission to have oversight of gambling in gaming. The Gambling Commission has previously stated that loot boxes in games did not meet the Gambling Act 2005’s definition of gambling.

NHS England has announced that the first gambling clinic for children will open in September 2019 as part of a new network of services for addicts being rolled out as part of the NHS Long Term Plan.

The House of Commons Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee is currently running an inquiry examining the links between gaming and gambling, with a report expected in the next few months.

Lords Library notes LLN-2019-0114

Author: Eren Waitzman

Topic: Gambling

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