Tom Watson calls for online gambling crackdown

‘Our current gambling laws are completely unfit for the digital age’ said Tom Watson, saying problem betting should be treated as ‘public health emergency’

Labour’s deputy leader Tom Watson is calling for an online crackdown for limits on spend and stake, drawing attention to the regulatory imbalance between online and offline gambling. As the shadow culture secretary, he will hit out at what he describes as “analogue legislation not fit for the digital age”. 

While limits on maximum stakes and prizes exist in casinos and betting shops, online gambling lacks such safeguards, putting vulnerable customers at risk.

Mr Watson’s remarks come just after Labour’s publication of their year-long review into gambling regulations. They also called for a ban on the use of credit cards to place bets. 

Mr Watson will focus on online gambling, calling for the introduction of limits to spend, to stake and to speed. With these changes he hopes to prevent customers placing large amounts on each bet and in rapid succession. 

“Problem gambling is Britain’s hidden epidemic,” he says during a speech at the think tank IPPR’s policy seminar. “We should treat it as a public health emergency.” 

Our current gambling laws are completely unfit for the digital age. The 2005 Act was written so long ago it has more mentions of the postal service than the internet. Whereas gambling in the offline world is highly regulated, the lack of controls on online gambling is leading vulnerable consumers suffering huge losses.”

Mr Watson adds: “Online gambling companies have a responsibility to protect their customers from placing bets that they cannot afford. But too often, these operators have either neglected the care of their customers or have been too slow in their due diligence. 

“We need to see a culture of limits introduced to internet gambling: a system of thresholds placed on the spend, stake and speed of online gambling that will give safeguards to customers.”