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On 23 November 2017, the House of Lords is scheduled to debate a motion moved by Lord Browne of Belmont (Democratic Unionist Party) on the “challenges facing problem gamblers, specifically with respect to online gambling, and of the Multi-Operator Self Exclusion Scheme about to be introduced to help online gamblers”.

According to the Gambling Commission, Great Britain now has the largest regulated online gambling market in the world. In the period October 2015–September 2016, the remote gambling sector generated a gross gambling yield, defined as the amount retained by operators after the payment of winnings but before the deduction of costs, of £4.5 billion. (Remote gambling is defined as gambling in which persons participate by the use of remote communication, mainly the internet). This represented a 32 percent market share of the gambling industry as a whole, which generated £13.8 billion over the period.

The latest official estimates are that 63 percent of adults (aged 16 and over) in Great Britain had gambled in the most recent year surveyed. Problem gamblers—defined as those who gamble to a degree that compromises, disrupts or damages family, personal or recreational pursuits—were estimated to comprise 0.8 percent of the adult population, with such individuals far more likely to be men than women. This translates to an estimated 430,000 problem gamblers in Great Britain in 2015, with a further 2 million having been deemed ‘at risk’ of problem gambling. Elsewhere in the UK, problem gambling has been estimated to affect 2.3 percent of the adult population in Northern Ireland—a higher proportion than in England, Scotland or Wales. 

Concerns have been raised by the Gambling Commission, as the responsible regulator, and others about the potential for problematic gambling behaviours to develop now that online gambling is readily available at any time to those with a device and an internet connection. However, the Commission and others have also contended that technological advances could be utilised to protect consumers by helping to control problematic behaviour. An online multi-operator self-exclusion scheme is scheduled to be in place by 2018 to allow problem gamblers to self-exclude from all online operators via a single website, rather than having to self-exclude from all online operators separately.

This briefing provides background information on how gambling is regulated in the UK and the size of the domestic gambling sector. It then examines the prevalence of gambling behaviours, including problem gambling; some of the challenges faced by problem gamblers; and the forthcoming online multi-operator self-exclusion scheme which is due to be in place by 2018. The briefing concludes by providing information on recent developments regarding government policy and regulatory enforcement.

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