Gambling Advertising - Question for Short Debate

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords am 2:28 pm ar 25 Ebrill 2024.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Photo of Lord Smith of Hindhead Lord Smith of Hindhead Ceidwadwyr 2:28, 25 Ebrill 2024

My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Foster of Bath, for initiating this debate and pay tribute to his tenacious pursuit of this particular subject. He and I have worked together for quite some time and served on your Lordships’ Select Committee on gambling harm a few years ago. I declare my own interest as the CEO of the Association of Conservative Clubs. We have several hundred clubs throughout the UK, all of which have gaming machines, play bingo and have small-scale lotteries. I also declare my interest as the chairman of the National Conservative Draws Society, an established society lottery with an income or turnover in excess of £1 million each year.

We have been here before, speaking about gambling advertising and gambling harm, and we have talked before about how to protect children from the harm of advertising. I can recall discussing the subject of loot boxes back in 2016, and I am sure the subject will be mentioned again today. The latest game is “Fortnite”, whose loot boxes I say will be the next ones we will be talking about, in a few months or years to come.

I will today address not just the point that gambling advertising is too much; I think everybody here knows and agrees that we see far more gambling advertising now than we used to. If there is more gambling advertising, there will be more people who gamble. If there are more people who gamble, the 0.5% of people who suffer from gambling harm will increase, and the 0.9% of young people who suffer from gambling harm and have a gambling problem will also increase.

The point I will make today is not that gambling advertising is on the increase, and that more people gamble as a result. I will talk specifically about one area where we might be able to help: children who are suffering from gambling harm, having perhaps been exposed to too much gambling advertising. Problem gambling rises each year; advertising spend on gambling rises each year; and gambling among young people—that is, ages under 18; even under 11 years of age in some cases—is rising as well.

I read the Gambling Commission’s 2023 report on young people and their gambling behaviour, attitudes and awareness. It has an interesting section on young people gambling using a parent’s account. It said:

“Overall, young people were more likely to use their parent’s or guardian’s accounts for any type of online gambling with their permission (6 percent), rather than without (2 percent). When looking at specific gambling accounts, young people were more likely to have played National Lottery games online with their parent’s or guardian’s permission (5 percent), than without (2 percent). Similarly, young people were more likely to have played on gambling websites or placed bets online with their parent’s or guardian’s permission (5 percent) compared with those without (2 percent)”.

We can conclude, therefore, that some parents give permission for their children to gamble, and that it is possible for children to gamble without their parent’s or guardian’s permission, meaning that some young people were playing either via their own account or by hacking into a parent’s account.

Something has gone wrong here with security measures. It should not be possible for a young person to gamble under their own name and details, and it should not be right they do it under their parent’s or guardian’s accounts. I suggest it would be a good idea to mandate a two-factor identification process to be put in place on all online gambling sites, so that if a child is trying to gamble without their parents’ knowledge, their parents’ mobile phones could be notified. This process could deter the child by making it harder for them to get online. Secondly, could the industry do more to provide information and education about the dangers of gambling to children and parents alike?

In terms of how this relates to marketing and advertising, if gambling operators have not got the correct safety measures in place to protect children from accessing their products—and this includes the National Lottery—they should not be able to advertise their services, or even operate until their product can be shown to be safe. We would shut down a bar if under-18s were found to be systematically slipping through and purchasing alcohol undetected. I do not really see the difference here at all. That might be something to think about.

Perhaps we might also touch on the mixed messages we sometimes send about the sports personalities involved with the gambling industry; at the same time, we are just about to wave off our team to France for the Olympic Games, which is almost solely supported by gambling, through the National Lottery.