Gaming Machines - Question

– in the House of Lords at 2:51 pm on 12th September 2017.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Lord Clement-Jones Lord Clement-Jones Chair, Artificial Intelligence Committee 2:51 pm, 12th September 2017

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what progress they have made with their Review of Gaming Machines and Social Responsibility Measures.

Photo of Lord Ashton of Hyde Lord Ashton of Hyde The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport

My Lords, the review generated a lot of interest from the general public, as well as from a variety of interest groups, local authorities, trade bodies and industry. As the Minister for Sport and Civil Society made clear in the other place before the Recess, any announcement will not be made until October at the earliest.

Photo of Lord Clement-Jones Lord Clement-Jones Chair, Artificial Intelligence Committee

My Lords, that is not an unexpected reply. Does the Minister accept that the NatCen report published last month provides clear evidence that 43% of FOBT users are either problem or at-risk gamblers? In that light, does he accept that it is high time that the Government end their internal debate, override the Treasury objections and act to reduce the committed stake and slow the speed of play on these dangerous machines without any further delay?

Photo of Lord Ashton of Hyde Lord Ashton of Hyde The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport

My Lords, the noble Lord has misunderstood several things. First, the Chancellor has said publicly that he fully supports the work of DCMS to ensure that the UK’s gambling regime continues to balance the needs of vulnerable people, consumers who gamble responsibly and those who work in this sector. Of the 2.38 million who are at risk, 1.4 million are at low risk, and I completely understand the noble Lord’s point about 430,000 problem gamblers being 430,000 too many. That is exactly why we are having the review, which we hope will be published soon. We will then be able to do something about it, depending on what the options are.

Photo of Lord Hughes of Woodside Lord Hughes of Woodside Labour

In his Answer, the Minister referred to October. October of which year?

Photo of Baroness Walmsley Baroness Walmsley Liberal Democrat Lords Spokesperson (Health)

My Lords, younger gamblers, aged 18 to 24, have a greater propensity to develop problem gambling and mental health issues. They do it mostly online, which is very quick and easy. What will the Government do to reduce the volume of gambling advertising, particularly at sporting events? In many cases, the tone of this advertising is very clearly aimed at young people.

Photo of Lord Ashton of Hyde Lord Ashton of Hyde The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport

That is a valid point. Although there is a watershed protecting young children, it does not apply to live sporting events. Advertising—as well as other social responsibility issues—is included in the review, which will be published soon.

Photo of Baroness Manzoor Baroness Manzoor Conservative

My Lords, one has only to walk down the high street in some of the very poor areas in our cities to find that every other shop appears to be a gambling place. Will the Minister look at planning laws as part of the review, to ensure that some of these gambling shops, or casinos or whatever they are, can be limited in number?

Photo of Lord Ashton of Hyde Lord Ashton of Hyde The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport

I am pleased to say that the review includes in its scope the numbers and locations of gaming machines within shops. But this is not a review of planning law—that was not included

Photo of Lord Collins of Highbury Lord Collins of Highbury Opposition Whip (Lords), Shadow Spokesperson (Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs), Shadow Spokesperson (International Development)

My Lords, the fact is that this review is long overdue. The Minister has reassured the House on previous occasions about when it will be published. In the meantime, thousands of people suffering from problem gambling are left vulnerable. The Government need to act, and act promptly, on this matter. There must be a holistic approach. It is not just FOBTs, although they are a great problem, but the issue of how easy it is now to bet, particularly online. With mobile phones you can be anywhere in the world and bet a fortune. The Government must act.

Photo of Lord Ashton of Hyde Lord Ashton of Hyde The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport

That is exactly why, within the review, the issues of social responsibility and advertising are covered, including online gambling. We agree that there are issues to be dealt with. That is why we have the review and why it will be published. But there must be an evidence-based approach. There will be a consultation to make sure that, for example, action cannot be subject to judicial review.

Photo of Lord Kirkhope of Harrogate Lord Kirkhope of Harrogate Conservative

My Lords, I speak as a former Home Office Minister responsible for these matters. In this area of gambling in particular and its effects on society, does my noble friend not agree that, however well he may be performing these responsibilities in his department, it might be a good idea for the Government to transfer them back to the Home Office, where proper regulation can be applied?

Photo of Lord Ashton of Hyde Lord Ashton of Hyde The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport

I had not considered that issue, I must admit, but I do not think it is for me to comment.

Photo of Lord West of Spithead Lord West of Spithead Labour

My Lords, talking of gaming machines and games of chance, Lady Emma Hamilton enjoyed games of chance and 224 years ago yesterday she met Nelson—an affair of the heart. On Nelson’s heart was engraved “lack of frigates”. He had some 284 of them. Today, the Government are committed to maintaining only 19 escorts. Does the Minister think we should have a somewhat better aspiration, or it may be engraved on all our hearts?

Photo of Lord Smith of Hindhead Lord Smith of Hindhead Conservative

My Lords, will the Minister update the House about what the Government are doing to make online gambling safer for consumers, particularly in relation to operators based outside of the UK with British customers?

Photo of Lord Ashton of Hyde Lord Ashton of Hyde The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport

Online gambling was brought under the regulatory regime in 2014. One of the main ways of dealing with this is to approach the payment providers. If an unlicensed gambling operator is not obeying the regulations, they will be prevented from operating with the payment providers. There is not much point in them operating if they cannot get paid.