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Labour calls for limits on online gambling as Watson reveals new policies

Tom Watson: set to reveal new Labour policies on online gambling
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Limits on spend, stake and speed of online gambling would be introduced by a Labour government, part of a raft of policies set to be unveiled by the party on Thursday.

In a speech at the Institute for Public Policy Research think tank, Labour deputy leader Tom Watson is expected to describe the 2005 Gambling Act as "analogue legislation not fit for the digital age" and that online gambling is "totally lacking adequate regulation".

A new 'E category' would be introduced to gambling legislation by a Labour government to regulate online gambling products in a similar way to which stakes and prizes on FOBTs and other gaming machines available in betting shops and casinos are regulated.

Watson is expected to say: "We need to see a culture of limits introduced to internet gambling: a system of thresholds placed on the spend, stake and speed of online gambling that will give safeguards to consumers.

"Labour’s new policies announced today will provide a framework for both industry and the regulator to achieve that."

Watson is also expected to highlight a number of stories of heavy losses incurred by online gamblers, claiming the lack of regulation of the sector had resulted in "gross excesses, abuse and vulnerable problem gamblers being let down".

He is set to tell the audience: “Problem gambling is Britain’s hidden epidemic. We should treat it as a public health emergency.

"Our current gambling laws are completely unfit for the digital age. The 2005 Act was written so long ago it has more mentions of the postal service than the internet. Whereas gambling in the offline world is highly regulated, the lack of controls on online gambling is leading to vulnerable consumers suffering huge losses.

"Online gambling companies have a responsibility to protect their customers from placing bets they cannot afford. But too often these operators have either neglected the care of their customers or have been too slow in their due diligence."

On the latter point Watson will call for a system of online affordability checks that ensure customer due diligence is carried out before a bet is placed.

He will also pledge to undertake a 'Gamer's Consultation' to gather information and evidence about the relationship between video gaming and gambling, particularly in relation to skins and loot boxes. The latter, in which game players pay money for digital goods, have been accused of introducing children to gambling.

The campaign against FOBTs which resulted in the government agreeing to cut maximum stakes to £2 from £100 from April 1 gained support across the political divide and more evidence of that cross-party support is expected to be on display on Thursday, with Conservative peer Lord Chadlington, the former chairman of Action on Addiction, set to respond to Watson's policy calls by describing the 2005 Gambling Act as not being fit for purpose.

The Remote Gambling Association said it fully embraced the need to move faster to tackle problem gambling and was committed to working with both government and opposition.

It added: "The online environment has the huge advantage of providing a complete overview of player spending patterns and behaviours; using this information can prove to be a more effective and sophisticated way to tackle problem gambling and thereby avoid arbitrary limits that risk driving customers to the unregulated and illegal gambling market."

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We need to see a culture of limits introduced to internet gambling
E.W. Terms