Lord Foster: the gambling industry isn't changing fast enough

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  • By Giorgia Rose
Lord Foster Gambling Industry

This week, chairman of Peers for Gambling Reform Lord Don Foster of Bath stated that the British gaming industry has made positive changes in recent months, but that it was only being done “as a last resort”.

The Peers for Gambling Reform is one of the largest groups within the House of Lords and was formed in September 2020 to campaign for the improvement of the gambling industry in Great Britain.

Lord Foster shared his views as a guest on iGB’s Gambling Review Podcast, expressing that while he welcomes the proactive steps taken by the industry to reduce gambling harm, he views them as more reactionary rather than driven by genuine desire to raise standards. 

“I think there’s no doubt whatsoever that the industry began to realise the game was up when they saw the enormous cross-party support and public support for the change in fixed-odds betting terminals,” said Lord Foster. 

The improvements he recognises include industry groups coming together into the Betting and Gaming Council (BGC) to increase research education and treatment spending. However, he calls the recent restrictions implemented on gambling advertising “still quite limited”.

“There’s no doubt that the industry is being more proactive but they’re really only doing that after being dragged to the table and of course there are many areas where we’d like them to go further.”

Foster and the House of Lords group produced a wide-ranging series of proposals for an upcoming review of the Gambling Act, which included stake limits and a ban on gambling sponsorship in sports. 

He was pleased to see the Gambling Commission already examining the same issues, adding that while the Commission has done well recently in addressing issues which are most urgent, he is disappointed that it did not move faster, though he acknowledges their lack of resources.

“In this fast-changing industry with ever more reliance on technology, the Gambling Commission is having difficulty having the staff in place to be able to be on top of everything.”

“They are short on funds and relatively limited staffing budgets and it’s difficult attracting the brightest and best who would make a lot more money working for the industry itself.”

The Peer went on to list a number of areas which he hoped an upcoming review of the Gambling Act would address. These included funding for the Gambling Commission, greater controls around affordability, online stake limits and the classification of loot boxes

“A third of a million people in the country are problem gamblers,” Foster said. “Many more people, maybe two million, are affected by problem gambling, and when we notice that maybe 55,000 children, under the legal age to gamble, are gambling addicts themselves.

“The one thing I want to see is fewer people affected by problem gambling, while at the same time allowing those who wish to gamble and can do so safely do it. I believe the key recommendations in the Lords reform would allow that to be the place.”