Gambling can have significant adverse effects on people which can include addiction, mental health problems, financial loss, and in some cases crime or suicide.
Excluding the National Lottery, gambling operators earned £11.3bn in 2018-19. All gambling in Britain is regulated by the Gambling Commission with the aim to “ensure gambling is fair and safe”. It is funded by licence fees from industry, which amounted to £19 million in the same period.
Overall responsibility for the policy and regulatory framework lies the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS), which has an objective to ensure gambling is socially responsible. The industry is increasingly complex, with new risks emerging from online and mobile gambling and games that share features with gambling but are not regulated as such.
The NAO’s report ‘Gambling regulation: problem gambling and protecting vulnerable people’ examines how well gambling regulation protects people from gambling-related harms and addresses new risks from social and technological developments.
The report finds that there are an estimated 395,000 problem gamblers in Great Britain, with 1.8 million more gamblers at risk who may also be experiencing harm. The report finds that the Gambling Commission is improving its regulation but has more to do including taking a more strategic approach to influencing gambling operators to raise standards.
The NAO concludes that even with improvements, the Commission’s ability to protect gamblers faces constraints in the regulatory framework, including inflexible funding and gaps in redress arrangements, and that the Commission is unlikely to be fully effective in addressing risks and harms to consumers within the current arrangements.
This will be the first time the Committee has examined gambling regulation in recent years. The Committee will question officials from the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport and the Gambling Commission, on how well the current regulatory framework protects gamblers.
The Committee will also ask officials about how current restrictions imposed in response to the COVID-19 pandemic could affect those susceptible to the negative impacts of gambling.