Tom Watson, Labour’s Shadow Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, will today give a speech to the Institute of Public Policy Research (“IPPR”) outlining the Labour party’s new policies on online gambling.
From a gaming and esports perspective, Watson will announce he is going to undertake a ‘Gamer’s Consultation’ with the purpose of ‘gathering evidence’ about the relationship between gambling and gaming – with a particular focus on loot boxes and skins.
The overall speech has a much more broad focus, and calls for a wide-ranging crackdown on online gambling – which he argues has a significantly poorer set of regulations than offline gambling environments. Watson argues that the 2005 Gambling Act is a piece of “anaologue legislation not fit for the digital age” before further expanding and labelling the online gambling industry as “totally lacking adequate regulation” which leads to “gross excesses, abuse and vulnerable problem gamblers being let down”.
The ‘Gamer’s Consultation’ will see Watson & the Labour party reach out to gamers for their views on the ‘situation’ and what solutions are needed. The UK Gambling Commission previously provided views in March 2017 which called for parents to be aware of the risk of underage and unlicensed gambling relating to video games and esports.
Lord Chadlington, Conservative Peer and former Chairman of Action on Addiction, will respond to Watson’s policy calls by confirming that the 2005 Gambling Act is not fit for purpose in the digital age – showing support across multiple big political parties in the UK.
Tom Watson, Labour’s Shadow Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport stated: “Problem gambling is Britain’s hidden epidemic. We should treat it as a public health emergency.”
He continued: “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 to vulnerable consumers suffering huge losses.
Skin betting, although a lot less in the public spotlight – is still rife. Many sites still operate through the Valve Steam API and allow users to deposit skins and bet on a Roulette wheel at but a click of a button. Given these companies are completely unregulated, and the Valve API only requires users to be 13, concern remains about underage gambling on the aforementioned websites.
Drama around Tmartn and ProSyndicate seem long in the past – as the craze around gambling videos seems to have subsided slightly. Governments around Europe have started to consider loot boxes and crates as gambling – with the Netherlands and Belgium crackdown so severe the whole Steam Market API was initially pulled before a slight backtrack. Users in the aforementioned countries are still not permitted to open crates in CS:GO.
There was also a case around Craig ‘Nepenthez’ Douglas and his business partner Dylan Rigby who were handed hefty fines for a FIFA related gambling site.
Esports Insider says: Although a ‘Gamer’s Consultation’ doesn’t have too much meaning of yet, this could have repercussions for companies that operate with a loot box or “luck based” model for items in game in the UK. The likes of FIFA Ultimate Team which are namely based on pack openings to gain players as well as Steam products which are luck based and then super easy to trade are likely to be most at risk. Here’s hoping the research done by Labour is undertaken with the right people & all relevant stakeholders have their voice heard.