Forthcoming pre-Review Report on the 2005 Gambling Act

The Government has committed to a review of the 2005 Gambling Act, describing it as an “analogue law in a digital age”. This commitment has been reinforced by Matt Hancock, Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, who has pledged to review the Act as part of a wider drive by Government to combat addiction.

Specifically, the Government has indicated that a review would make recommendations on the following:

  • Loot boxes;
  • Prize and stake limits;
  • The misuse of credit card payments (this has now been resolved by the regulator following action from DCMS);
  • Putting the voluntary levy on a statutory footing; and
  • New ways of raising revenue for problem gambling support

The Social Market Foundation will conduct an independent pre-review report which will bring together the various policies, reports, academic literature and political inquiries of the past two years, and will outline the key priorities that any future review should take into account. Our report will also make its own recommendations, suggesting ways in which the Government’s review could build on the lessons learnt from the 2001 Budd Report.

The report will be published in Summer 2020.

The 2005 Gambling Act: some context

The 2005 Gambling Act drew on the recommendations of the Gambling Review Report (2001) authored by Sir Alan Budd, former chief economic advisor to the Treasury and founding member of the Bank of England’s Monetary Policy Committee. Budd was assisted in this review by a range of experts, including the philosopher Jonathan Wolff, the behavioural psychologist Jeffrey Gray, the sports journalist Mihir Bose and the economist Phillipa Marks. The review report sought to establish a balance between the liberalisation of gambling as a legitimate leisure activity and the protection of people from harm.

During this time, governmental responsibility for gambling shifted from the Home Office to the newly-created Department for Culture, Media and Sport. It has remained under the auspices of DCMS ever since, although the recent focus on questions of addiction and gambling-related harm has led some to consider ways in which the Department of Health and Social Care can play a greater role in treating elements of gambling as a public health priority. NHS England has also taken a prominent role in this debate.

Gambling legislation is a complex question, which transcends traditional departmental boundaries. It is therefore essential that a future review of the 2005 Gambling Act establishes a framework for coordination between DCMS, and DHSC, as well as other relevant ministries – particularly the Treasury – and public bodies. Government has already shown how such a coordinated approach can be effective: for example, the success of its recent suicide prevention strategy has benefited from a cross-government plan accommodating DHSC, the Home Office, the Department of Transport and the Ministry of Justice.

The 2005 Act was published before the ubiquitous use of social media and smartphones. Leading parliamentary voices have described the Act as “analogue legislation in a digital age”. Any future review must take into account digital developments in the gambling market, and the ways in which these developments have allowed certain products and marketing techniques to circumnavigate regulation.

Other Ongoing Reviews

In addition to the above, the Northern Ireland Department for Communities has launched a public consultation on its “outdated” gambling legislation (including the question of regulatory alignment with the rest of the United Kingdom); the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Gambling-Related Harm has recently published a report on the impact of online gambling; a new charity established by Lord Chadlington has published a proposal for how industry funding can be independently allocated to the research, education and treatment of problem gambling; and the House of Lords Gambling Committee is set to publish a report in Spring 2020. The Gambling Commission has also been engaged in consultations on credit cards and society lottery reforms.

We believe that it is vital that the Government’s proposed review of the 2005 Gambling Act takes into account and builds on the evidence from each of these various inquiries.

The pre-review report

While Government is committed to a review of the 2005 Act, it is inevitable that the first 100 days of the new Parliament will be dominated by other priorities, as outlined in the Queen’s Speech: departing from the European Union by 31 January 2020, beginning trade negotiations with both the EU and other global economies, restoring devolved government in Northern Ireland, restructuring government departments, and funding and supporting the workforce in the NHS.

It would be understandable that a review of the 2005 Gambling Act might come second to these priorities. Nevertheless, work must begin now on ensuring that by Summer 2020, a framework for the review has been established so that Government and policymakers can move quickly and efficiently to this purpose.

For this reason, the SMF will draw up a pre-review report which brings together the various policies, reports, academic literature and political inquiries of the past two years, and outlines the key priorities that any future review should take into account. We will also make our own recommendations, and will suggest ways in which the review could build on the lessons learnt from the 2001 Budd Report.

This report will be written by Dr James Noyes, fellow of the SMF and former advisor to Tom Watson MP, ex-Deputy Leader of the Labour Party and shadow Culture Secretary. Dr Noyes is a political scientist who holds degrees from the University of Cambridge and University College London. He was a lecturer for several years at the Paris Institute of Political Studies and has authored a number of influential think tank reports, including work on social reform, British soft power, public health and gambling.

The Social Market Foundation is a non-partisan think tank which conducts research on a wide range of economic and social policy areas, including economic prosperity, public services and consumer markets. Dr Noyes will be supported in his work by SMF staff including the director of the SMF, James Kirkup, former political editor at the Daily Telegraph and regular columnist for the Spectator.

This report will be a targeted, pragmatic survey of the key policy questions relevant to a subsequent review of the 2005 Gambling Act. It will be designed to support the policy teams at both DCMS and the Department of Health in their preparation for the review, and will be published in the Summer of 2020. It will take a cross-party and collaborative approach, aiming to integrate and develop the recent work done by the Gambling-Related Harm APPG, led by Carolyn Harris, the Lords Gambling Committee and Lord Chadlington’s Office. Crucially, it will be published in a “Parliament Ready” format to ensure its usefulness to the Government and other policymakers.

Advisory Panel

As part of this project, an advisory panel of academics, industry leaders, policy makers and “experts by experience” will be created to provide insight and experience, to help inform the report’s thinking. The panel will include experts who have a background in public health, computer science, data analytics, gambling-related harm, financial services, market analysis and regulation.

This panel would convene at regular intervals in a private roundtable format to discuss key questions of the 2005 Gambling Act.

In addition, senior representatives from the Gambling Commission, the Advertising Standards Authority, the Information Commissioner’s Office, the Competition and Markets Authority, and non-UK experts will all be invited to provide their insights.

More information

For more information, contact SMF fellow James Noyes via


About the Social Market Foundation

The Social Market Foundation (SMF) is a non-partisan think tank. We believe that fair markets, complemented by open public services, increase prosperity and help people to live well. We conduct research and run events looking at a wide range of economic and social policy areas, focusing on economic prosperity, public services and consumer markets. The SMF is resolutely independent, and the range of backgrounds and opinions among our staff, trustees and advisory board reflects this.



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