We have focused on the issue of gambling since 2006, following the introduction of the Gambling Act 2005. In particular, we are concerned about the growth and addictive nature of online gambling, sometimes referred to as remote gambling.
There is no clear Biblical mandate not to gamble; however, gambling can often lead to or exacerbate traits we are instructed and warned to steer clear of, such as greed, the love of money and selfishness.
Addiction to gambling – often termed "problem gambling" – is something which affects a significant number of people in the UK, with the most recent British Gambling Prevalence Survey in 2010 identifying 450,000 problem gamblers in the UK – up more than 200,000 since 2007, with an average debt of £17,500 each. What’s more, the survey also found that another 900,000 people were at "moderate risk" of becoming problem gamblers, while 2.7 million more displayed "some risk factors".
Problem gambling online is not merely a problem of debt; it also has a grave impact upon relationships, family, employment, education and health, leading in extreme cases even to suicide.
We have worked to ensure that gambling is not further liberalised in the UK and have taken steps to protect vulnerable problem gamblers. This has manifested in support for measures such as a one-stop shop for self-exclusion where problem gamblers can exclude themselves with one click from all online gambling sites registered in the UK.
We supported Lord Browne of Belmont, who pressed to the inclusion of an amendment in the Gambling (Licensing and Advertising) Act 2014 to introduce a one-stop shop for self-exclusion. As a result of this pressure, a six month review is underway (due to conclude in September 2014), looking into the establishment of a national remote gambling exclusion scheme.
We have also supported Lord Clement-Jones with his Gambling (Categorisation and Use of B2 Gaming Machines) Bill. This Bill sought to reduce stakes on B2 gaming machines – also known as Fixed Odds Betting Terminals (FOBTs) from £100 to £2 .