SMF report calls for UK monthly player deposit limit, plus other measures 

A new report by the Social Market Foundation (SMF) has called for a £100 monthly gambling deposit limit, unless players can prove that they aren’t financially vulnerable. 

The proposed measure is aimed to protect families of a lower socio-economic background, with the SMF claiming that it’s “inevitable that gamblers will sometimes spend more than they can afford”. 

The SMF also wants the UK Gambling Commission (UKGC) to be replaced with two new divisions overseeing different areas in regulation and player protection. 

This is the latest in a series of reports released by various groups on the state of gambling in the UK, with the government set to review the 2005 Gambling Act. 

Could players soon be subjected to monthly deposit limits? 

According to the report, “£23 per week – or approximately £100 per month” is a fair limit for households with lower incomes. Once this limit has been met, the SMF wants operators to determine that customers can afford to wager more. This would be done through tax returns, wage slips and credit checks. 

If users are deemed to be able to bet above the limit, then they will be allowed to do so. Information related to customers’ financial backgrounds would be passed on to a gambling ombudsman (more on that in a moment), so they are unable to gamble with multiple operators if they are at risk of developing or currently experience gambling-related problems. 

This suggestion has been criticised by the Betting and Gaming Council (BGC). They believe that players are already subjected to stringent measures and said the following. 

“We already carry out robust and improved affordability checks … We disagree with the suggestion of an arbitrary and random low cap on spending and can think of no other area of the economy where the government determines how much an individual can spend.”

Shaking up the current regulatory body 

At the moment, the UKGC oversees all gambling regulation in the UK. However, the SMF wants the body to be replaced with two separate divisions. 

One would focus on matters related to awarding licences and ensuring that operators are compliant with gambling laws. The other would be more customer-oriented, focusing on player protection. 

Offshore operators criticised 

One recurring theme in many recently-released reports is the call for an end to gambling shirt sponsorships for football clubs. Both the House of Lords and All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) have suggested that this happens in recent months. 

The SMF was critical of offshore operators with an online presence in the UK, many of whom sponsor clubs in the Premier League. These companies instead have offices in jurisdictions such as Gibraltar and Malta, meaning that their tax obligations are different. 

Remote betting tax rates for the UK are currently 21%, whereas land-based machine gaming is taxed at 25%. Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC) promised a “full review” of gambling taxation in 2014, but has yet to fulfill this. 

The report wants any review in this respect to “include an assessment of the number and nature of any tax avoidance schemes connected to the remote sector”.

The SMF’s study was headed by the group ‘Clean up Gambling’, of which Matt Zarb-Cousin is its Director. He said the below about offshore operators and how they can cause harm in the UK.

“We believe gambling firms relocating offshore has resulted in hundreds of millions in tax being avoided, while the country is left to pick up the tab for all the harm online gambling is causing to society.”

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