The Gambling Act 2005: Regulatory Containment and Market Control

AuthorRoy Light
Publication Date01 Jul 2007
The Gambling Act 2005: Regulatory Containment and
Market Control
Roy Light
The Act marks a fundamental shift from legislative to market control of gambling. While plans
for LasVegas style casinos and internet gambling sites in Britai n have su¡ered setbacks, restric-
tions on the availability, advertising and stimulation of demand for gambling, enshrined in the
Gaming Act 1968, have been abandoned. In their place, a new regulatory body, the Gambling
Commission, has been established to take primary responsibility for ensuring that three licens ing
objectivesare promoted.These objectives are the preventionof crime and disorder, the conductof
gambling in a fair and open wayand the protection of children and the vulnerable.The Commis-
sion has been given strong and wide rangi ng powersto regulate gambling, but can the safeguards
proposed meet the challenge presented by a gambling industry released from restraints?
The Gambling Act 2005 is the second phase in the Government’s major overhaul
of what may be termed ‘leisure legislation. It follows the Licensing Act 2003
which introduced a new regime for alcohol, dancing and other entertainments.
The Acts share many features, most notably a dramatic shift in policy from regu-
latorycontainment to market-led expansion.
The gambling industry in Britain is already substantial, with the latest ¢gures
putting the turnover for gambling for 2003^04 at d53 bil l ion.
remote gambling is extensive and increasing rapidly with an estimated one mil-
lion regular online gamblers in Britain, 3.5 million in Europe and a combined
annual stakefor Europe,Asia and the UnitedStates of some d30 billion ( although
recent arrests of remote gambling company executives and prohibitionist moves
in theUS mayhaveresultedin a reduction inUS online gambling).
Gambling in
Britain is big businessfor the Government too, with d1.42 bill ion gambling duty
Professor of Law, UWE, Bristol; Barrister, St John’s Chambers, Bristol.
The author acknowledgesthe valuable comments made by the anonymous referees of this article.
1 For a review see R. Light, ‘The Licensing Act 2003: Liberal Constraint?’ (2005) 68 MLR
2 Estimates put d8 billion of this from the national lottery with most of the remainderfrom gam-
bling covered by the new Act. Report of the Gambling Commission 2005/06 HC 1226 (London: the
Stationery O⁄ce, July 2006) para 1.3. Up-to-date ¢gures for the nature and size of the industry
are not easily available from a single source; although the Gambling Commission aims to rectify
this with a national study commissioned toreport in summer 2007.
3 DCMS, Remote GamblingFact Pact (London: DCMS,20 06).
r2007 The Author.Journal Compilation r2007 The Modern Law ReviewLimited.
Published by BlackwellPublishing, 9600 Garsington Road,Oxford OX4 2DQ,UK and 350 Main Street, Malden, MA 02148, USA
(2007) 70(4)MLR 626^653
collected in 2004^2005
and some 100,000 people with full time equivalent
employment in the gambling industry.
There has been legislative control of gambling in Britain for more than
600 years.
Moral, social and economic imperatives have shaped the legislation,
as has the need to control an activity that could, if left unregulated, be exploited
by unscrupulous operators.
Shaking free from Victorian prohibitionism, the
mid-twentieth century saw three Royal Commissions endorse a loosening of
The prohibition on commercial gambling, which meant among other
things that there were no casinos orbingo clubs in Britain, wasl ifted by the Bet-
ting and Gaming Act 1960. Gambling was to be controlled principally by way of
regulation rather thancriminal prohibition. Underlying the 1960 Act was‘a liberal
strategy which permit[ed] the provision of su⁄cient facilities to meet ‘‘unstimu-
lated demand.’’
However, the1960 Act, as amended by the Betting Gaming and Lotteries Act
1963, unintentionally heralded a gambling explosion.
By the mid - 60s g amin g
machines had appeared in places such as clubs and hotels, casino gaming had
£ourished and expanded dramatically and what became known as the ‘bingo
craze’ was in full swing. Further, the law seemed ine¡ective against criminal in¢l-
tration and exploitation of the gaming industry.‘There were no requirements
whatever within the Act concerning either the quality of casino management or
the quantity and location of gaming outlets’.
Gaming machines similarly lacked
Concern mounted over escalating numbers of problem gamblers and related
bankruptcies. Violent enforcement of gambling debts, protection rackets and
moneylaundering were saidto be rife.These issues were regularly raisedi n Parlia-
ment, culminating i n 1966 in a debate in the Hous e of Lords ‘decrying the appar-
ent inability of the government to control a national scandal’.
In response, the
gaming provisions of the 1963 Act were replaced by the Gaming Act1968 which
introduced both a closely drawn regime and a regulatory body, the Gaming
Board for Great Britain.The tightened regulatory framework succeeded in bring-
ing Britain’s gambling industry under much more e¡ective control.
4 Department of Customs and Excise Annual Report20 04^2005 Cm 6691(2005) TableL2.
5 DCMS, Gambling Act:RegulatoryImpact Assessment (London: DCMS,20 04), para 1.3.
6 Probablystarting with an Act of 1388which prevented the playing of gameson the Sabbath.
7 For an account of the regulation of commercial gambling in Britain from the early eighteenth
century see D. Miers, Regulating Commercial Gambling: Past, Present, and Future (Oxford: OUP,
8 Final Report of the Royal Commission on Lotteries and Betting 1932^1933 (London: HMSO,
1933, Cmd 4341); Report of the Royal Commission on Betting, Lotteries and Gaming 1949^
1951 (London: HMSO, 1951,Cmnd 8190); Final Report of the Royal Commission on Gambling
1976^1978(London: HMSO,1978,Cmnd 7200).
9D.Dixon,FromProhibitionto Regulation (Oxford:Clarendon Press,1991) 1.
10 For a history of betting see M. Clapson, A bit ofa £ut ter: popular gambling and English society,c.1823^
1961 (Manchester: Manchester University Press,1992); C. Chinn, Better Bettingwith a Decent Feller:
Bookmakers, Bettingand theBritishWorking Classes1750^1990 (London: Harvester Wheatsheaf, 1991).
11 n7above,p87.
12 ibid.
13 For an historical account and an examination of pre- 2005 Act provisions see S.P. Monkcom, Smith
& Monkcom:TheLaw of Betting,Gaming and Lotteries (London: Butterworths, 2001).
Roy Li ght
r2007 The Author.Journal Compilation r2007 The Modern Law ReviewLimited.
(2007) 70(4)MLR 626^653

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