Gambling Advertising - Question for Short Debate

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords am 3:00 pm ar 25 Ebrill 2024.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Photo of Lord Bassam of Brighton Lord Bassam of Brighton Shadow Spokesperson (Science, Innovation and Technology), Shadow Spokesperson (Culture, Media and Sport) 3:00, 25 Ebrill 2024

My Lords, I join with others in thanking the noble Lord, Lord Foster, for bringing forward this topic for short debate. It is timely, and he is an indefatigable campaigner on this issue.

It is often said that we all like a flutter, and it is probably true, although you would struggle to get me to buy more than a raffle ticket. For most who choose to take part, it is an enjoyable and harmless activity but, at its extreme, gambling can be addictive; damaging to family life, relationships, and personal, mental and physical health; and life-destroying. I am sure that pretty much all of us have come across people in our lives with a gambling problem or who have been impacted by gambling problems. I know I have, and it was sad and tragic to see.

The DCMS Select Committee reported last year that

“around a third of a million people experience problem gambling, and it is likely that many more suffer gambling-related harm”.

The Library briefing for this debate, based on updated Gambling Commission data, estimates that it may be over a million. GamCare reports that the number of people seeking help for gambling-related harms is increasing. In the year to January 2024, requests for help rose by 24%. The NHS also reports increased demand for its gambling clinics. This is before we consider those who are struggling but do not feel able to ask for help.

I want to focus briefly on the need for better research. The DCMS Select Committee, in its inquiry into the gambling White Paper, stated:

“There is an urgent need to better understand the effects of gambling advertising on the risk of harm”.

It found that:

“While the existing evidence base does not show a causative link between gambling advertising and harm, it seems clear that advertising encourages participation in gambling and that this effect is more pronounced for children and those vulnerable to gambling harm”.

The activity of the gambling industry clearly suggests that it believes that advertising is a driver of interest in and support for gambling. In 2018, Regulus Partners reported that investment in marketing increased between 2014 and 2017 from £l billion to £1.5 billion, roughly 10% of the industry’s £13.8 billion revenue, with much of it now targeted at gamblers online. The Select Committee recommended that:

“The Government must commission independent longitudinal research on the link between gambling advertising and the risk of gambling harm, including specifically for … children”.

This needs to be a focus of the funding made available by the statutory levy.

I have two questions for the Minister. In their response to the Select Committee, published last week, the Government stated that levy funding will be directed towards independent research on gambling and gambling-related harms, which “could” include further advertising-related research. Can the Minister confirm to the House today that levy funding will be directed at research into the link between advertising and gambling harms, particularly in relation to children? Secondly—I am sure the Minister must be expecting this question—when can we expect the Government to publish their consultation on the statutory levy? The response to the Select Committee gives little away when it states that we should expect it “in the coming weeks”.

Sport, which many noble Lords have spoken about, is another key issue here. It is a huge part of our national and family life, and children are exposed to it and enjoy it alongside older family members. Alongside welcome and effective measures, including the whistle-to-whistle ban and plans for gambling sponsorship to be removed from the front of players’ kits, the Minister will be aware of the concerns raised over the amount of gambling advertising that young viewers are still exposed to during sporting events, and which they cannot opt out of.

It is therefore welcome that the central cross-sport gambling sponsorship code of conduct has been finalised, and that one of the four core principles is the protection of children and other vulnerable people. Can the Minister confirm that the code has been published, so it can be accessed by parliamentarians and sports fans—of course, some of us are both? Can the Minister give an update on when we might expect individual sports to publish their bespoke versions of the code? Can he tell us whether the Government are alive to the VIP managed clients who, thanks to direct online marketing techniques, now generate some 83% of gambling companies’ profits? By the way, one of the code’s core principles is that gambling promotion will be socially responsible. Can the Minister tell us more about what that looks like?

Finally, we welcome the ongoing work on delivering the White Paper; this is an area in which there is a sizable amount of activity and considerable consensus. What Members of this House are seeking to do is ensure that that activity is focused and delivered at pace and that no crucial issues are allowed to fall through the gaps.