Have we reached the stage where government could actually consider steps to nationalise the gambling sector? The regulatory response to gambling, heavily criticised by the industry, has played hard on the emotional issues rather than evidential bases, leaving analyst Steve Donoughue to sound some warning signals.
A prominent gambling consultant has cautioned that a national gambling spending limit is likely to be introduced in the coming years – as he predicts an “80 per cent” chance that gambling joins the tobacco and alcohol industries in either being banned completely from direct advertising, or facing “major marketing restrictions.”
Steve Donoughue made the comments during a regulatory forecast seminar as part of the online Bet 2020 Conference last week, arguing that with the felling of credit-card betting earlier this year, mandatory spending limits would be the “killer” next-step for regulators.
“It’ll be purely arbitrary – it will be say, £500 per month,” he said. “If you want to lose more than £500, you’ll have to go and prove to your gambling operator all about your sanity, your wealth, your source of wealth…probably the size of your feet and what you like to eat on a Tuesday.”
Donoughue went on to argue that the present mood of regulatory fervency was driven by the recent shift which has seen gambling treated as a public health issue. Such was his concern regarding the regulatory mood, that the consultant forecast a 20 per cent risk of government nationalising gambling altogether – through the creation of a single, monopolised state operator. But by placing gambling alongside other perceived social ills such as alcohol addiction, tobacco and illegal drugs, Donoughue argued that the government could potentially cause more harm than good to its social responsibility interests. “The idea is the more gambling is restricted, the more you will reduce problem gambling,” he commented. “There is absolutely no evidence that this is the case. Problem gamblers will then go to the black market, where there is no obligation to protect them.”