Closed petition Luke’s Law: Ban 'free bets' and emails that entice gamblers to place 'free bets'

'Free bets' encourage harmful addiction and can have severe consequences. My loving husband developed a gambling addiction after placing a 'free bet'. This consequently led to him to apply for loans that he could not pay back. He tragically took his own life 4 months later.

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My husband developed a gambling addiction. We managed to pay off his gambling debts and he kept his addiction at bay for almost 2 years. We have 2 children and he loved his family dearly. During lockdown, he had been furloughed and whilst I was at work and the children were in school, he was sent a 'free bet'. From that day onwards, he gambled everyday and quickly lost control. He took his own life on 22nd April 2021.

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Government responded

This response was given on 24 August 2021

The Government is looking at gambling advertising, including marketing and inducements, in our Gambling Act Review. We will set out any proposals for reform in a White Paper by the end of the year.

Read the response in full

Ministers are aware of the tragic circumstances surrounding the death of Mr Luke Ashton and extend their sympathy to his family and friends.

The Government has a clear vision for the gambling sector and wants all those who choose to gamble in Great Britain to be able to do so in a safe way. The UK Advertising Codes make clear that all gambling advertising and marketing must be socially responsible, with particular regard to the need to protect children and other vulnerable persons from being harmed or exploited, and its content must not encourage irresponsible gambling behaviour. While the Advertising Standards Authority is responsible for enforcing rules on the content and placement of gambling advertising, the independent regulator, the Gambling Commission, requires compliance with these codes as a licence condition and breaches of the codes can result in enforcement action against an operator.

The Government is reviewing the Gambling Act 2005 to ensure it is fit for the digital age. The Review was launched on 8 December 2020 with a wide-ranging Call for Evidence, which closed on 31 March. We received c.16,000 submissions from a range of stakeholders and members of the public, including individuals and organisations who represent people with lived experience of gambling harms.

As part of the broad scope of the Review, we are looking closely at issues around gambling advertising, including evidence on the impacts of licensed operators being able to make promotional offers and the types of incentives they are allowed to provide. We are committed to undertaking a thorough, evidence-led review and are carefully considering the submissions we received. We aim to set out our conclusions and proposals for reform in a white paper by the end of this year.

Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport

Gambling-related harm to be debated by MPs

MPs will hold a debate on gambling-related harm on Tuesday 29 March in Westminster Hall. The debate will be led by Carolyn Harris MP. The debate will start at 2:30pm and last for up to 90 minutes.

Watch the debate here on Tuesday:

You'll be able to read a transcript of the debate a few hours after it happens:

The House of Commons Library will also publish a research briefing on this issue before the debate:

About the debate

This will be a general debate. General debates allow MPs to debate important issues, however they do not end in a vote nor can they directly change the law.

Find out more about how Parliamentary debates work:

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Government announces plans to protect people from gambling-related harms

Last month the Government announced plans to reform gambling laws to protect vulnerable users.

The plans include:

  • Rules to prevent bonus offers harming vulnerable people
  • A statutory gambling operator levy to ensure that operators help fund treatment services and research
  • New stake limits for online slots games
  • Player protection checks to protect those most at risk of harm before unaffordable or harmful losses are incurred
  • Closing loopholes to make sure under-18s cannot gamble either online or via cash fruit machines
  • A new industry ombudsman to deal with disputes and rule on redress

For more information about these plans you can:

What happens next?

Now the Government has published its plans, it will work with the Gambling Commission and others to implement them as soon as possible, consulting where appropriate. The Government has said its intention is that the main measures in the white paper will be in force by summer 2024.

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MPs investigate regulation of gambling

A group of MPs called the Culture, Media and Sport Committee are looking into the regulation of gambling, following warnings that more needs to be done to protect people, including children, from gambling-related harm.

The Committee is considering issues including:

  • The scale of gambling-related harm
  • What priorities the Government should focus on
  • How broadly the term ‘gambling’ should be defined
  • Challenges relating to online gambling companies that are based outside of UK jurisdiction

Read the Committee's press notice announcing this work for more information.

What happens next?

The Committee is going to hold evidence sessions to hear from key stakeholders and representatives from the gambling industry. An evidence session is a hearing where MPs ask key people, such as campaigners or experts, questions on a particular topic. These sessions help MPs to gain a deeper understanding of the topic.

The Committee will then consider all the evidence it has taken and publish a report of its findings with recommendations to the Government on any changes that might be needed.

The Committee's first evidence session took place on Tuesday 16 May, where the Committee will hear from representatives of a number of charities. You can find out more about this evidence session on the Committee's website.

At future sessions the Committee is likely to hear form online and physical gambling businesses, academics and clinicians. To stay up to date on this work, visit the Committee's inquiry page.

What is the Culture, Media and Sport Committee?

The Culture, Media and Sport is a cross-party group of MPs that that look into the work of the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport and its associated public bodies, including the BBC.

The Culture, Media and Sport Committee is a select committee.

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