ONLINE GAMBLING: Addicted to Addiction

Publication Details

Online Gambling: Addicted to Addiction

About the report

In ‘ONLINE GAMBLING: Addicted to Addiction’, ResPublica, with the support of the Campaign for Fairer Gambling, builds on the recommendations in the previous ResPublica reports, developing a growing package of reforms to make the gambling industry more sustainable and responsible.

This report shows that there is an urgent need for action. The online gambling industry is an industry that makes more than half of its profits from those at risk and problem gamblers and is itself addicted to addiction – needing to generate more addiction to generate more profits.

This report highlights the need to prevent operant conditioning techniques from being used. There is a clear need to protect those at risk, and particularly the young, from being enticed down a road that limits their ability to make rational judgements. This requires independent choices to be made. If action is not taken to properly ensure compliance on online gambling platforms, greater numbers of those at risk may rapidly become a bigger problem. At the very least, as has been done for online child protection in other contexts, clear and unambiguous warnings are needed for certain types of online gambling.

Key drivers for the report:

The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) opened an investigation into the online gambling industry in 2016 and continues with enforcement action. Its findings to date are shocking:

• It has found breaches of consumer protection law

• It has found restrictions that require people to play multiple times before allowing them to withdraw their own money

• It has found restrictions on the right to withdraw winnings made from gameplay with their deposit

• It has found daily weekly or monthly withdrawal limits that keep players online and appear unreasonably low

• It has found dormancy terms that allow firms to confiscate funds or impose excessive charges after a certain period of inactivity

• It has found that firms denied pay-outs

In this report, we submit in addition that the online gambling industry obtains more than half of its profit from at risk and problem gamblers. Thus, the industry is addicted to addiction – too high a proportion of its profits come from the vulnerable and it has an interest in people spending time online and keeping people online to develop a habit – drawing them into gambling and creating long-term dependency.

  • Tim Cowen

    Equity Partner at Preiskel & Co

    Tim Cowen is an equity partner at Preiskel & Co and is independently recognised as one of the leading telecoms and technology regulatory/competition lawyers in the EU.  Tim led BT’s competition law and public policy team for many years and...

    Tim Cowen
  • Phillip Blond


    Phillip is an internationally recognised political thinker and social and economic commentator. He bridges the gap between politics and practice, offering strategic consultation and policy formation to governments, businesses and organisations across the world. He founded ResPublica in 2009 and...

    Phillip Blond

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