Sports betting operators’ VIP schemes have been reportedly targeted by government Ministers, according to the Daily Mail, as a new outcome of the overhaul of the 2005 Gambling Act.
Citing government sources, the Mail detailed that the practice has been reportedly described as ‘immoral’ by gambling law reform advocating Ministers, who have argued that VIP schemes encourage problem gambling.
Under current regulations, membership of VIP schemes for bettors under the age of 25 requires approval from senior administrators at betting operators, in addition to enhanced account monitoring.
The current situation regarding VIP schemes has been defended by the Betting and Gaming Council (BGC), with a statement informing the paper: “The BGC, working with the Gambling Commission, has already taken tough action on VIP accounts, including the introduction of a strict new code of conduct which has seen the number of players enrolled reduced by 70%.”
However, gambling reform campaigners had previously lambasted the UK Gambling Commission’s (UKGC) decision not to prohibit VIP schemes when introducing new industry rules last year.
Carolyn Harris, Labour MP and Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Gambling Related Harm (GRH APPG) said that the regulator’s decision demonstrated ‘the close relationship between the industry and the Gambling Commission’, whilst other campaigners criticised the body’s ‘weak and vague regulation’.
Commenting on the VIP schemes, Sir Iain Duncan Smith, MP for Chingford and Woodford Green and a former government Minister, stated his belief that ‘they are deliberately driving gamblers to worse debt.’
The MP has further described the betting and gaming industry’s defence of VIPs as ‘rubbish’, disparaging sector claims that the practice has become better regulated.
Although the Mail reached out to the DCMS for a comment, the department gave little comment on whether or not VIP schemes would face an outright ban, joining sports sponsorship arrangements, a prohibition on which has been touted as one of the most likely outcomes of the review and reportedly has the support of Prime Minister Boris Johnson and his cabinet.
‘The consultation on the Gambling Act Review closed in March, and we are carefully considering responses that provided evidence and views including those on advertising practices,” a DCMS spokesperson detailed.