Liberal Democrats reveal proposals to tackle problem gambling and introduce 'effective' affordability checks in manifesto

Bath racecourse
Bath: its racecourse management has stressed to the Liberal Democrats the impact affordability checks are having on racingCredit: Alan Crowhurst (Getty Images)

Introducing “effective” affordability checks and placing restrictions on gambling advertising are among the pledges made by the Liberal Democrats in the party's manifesto for next month’s general election.

Titled For A Fair Deal, the 117-page document launched on Monday contains no reference to horseracing, but does include a small section on the party’s plans for gambling should it be elected to govern on July 4.

Contained within the section on culture, media and sport, the Liberal Democrats outlined the intention to “combat the harms caused by problem gambling”.

The proposals focus on the introduction of a compulsory levy on betting companies to fund safer gambling projects, restricting advertising, establishing a gambling ombudsman and implementing “effective” affordability checks, while also cracking down on black market betting.

Asked for further details, a spokesperson for the party said: “The Liberal Democrats will combat the harms caused by problem gambling which affects thousands of people. We will introduce the planned compulsory levy on gambling companies which will fund research, prevention and treatment. We will also implement effective affordability checks to protect individuals, their families and communities from problem gambling.”

An insight into what plans the Liberal Democrats could have for affordability checks was provided by Wera Hobhouse, who had been MP for Bath, during the Westminster Hall debate on the proposed measures that took place in February in response to a petition reaching 100,000 signatures.

She said: “If affordability checks are to be implemented, they should be carefully and deliberately targeted at those most at risk of harm. We Liberal Democrats are adding something to this debate: we would adopt a public health approach to gambling legislation. We propose that there should be a soft cap on gambling losses set at £100 per month . . . if someone wished to bet beyond that loss limit, they would be required to provide financial data to show that they can afford to do so.

“It is important that there should be reform, but it is also important that we get this right. It is particularly important to me that such a wonderful facility as Bath racecourse is not affected by a hammer approach to tackle the problem.”

A “public health approach” to gambling advertising has also been proposed by Lord Foster of Bath, a Liberal Democrat peer and chair of Peers for Gambling Reform. During a House of Lords debate in April on gambling advertising, Lord Foster called for “significant curbs” on advertising, abolishment of free bets and the end of gambling sponsorship in sport.

The Liberal Democrats last governed in coalition with the Conservatives between 2010-2015 and are currently polling at around 10 per cent. Party leader Ed Davey has declined to rule out joining another coalition government.

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