SMF Finds Public Mostly In Support of New Gambling Policy Reforms August 30, 2023 Mike Ashley

SMF Finds Public Mostly In Support of New Gambling Policy Reforms

Social Market FoundationSummary:

  • New study claims most gambling policy proposals are supported by the UK public
  • Resistance from media, industry, and party colleagues is the main barrier to reforms, not public opinion
  • SMF recommends two strategies for successful policymaking

The majority of the UK population is in favor of introducing significant public health policies for gambling, according to Social Market Foundation (SMF). In its latest report, the cross-party public policy think tank stated that there has been an anti-gambling sentiment among the British public in recent years, with gambling reforms receiving “at least plurality support” from residents.

This suggests that public opinion is not a major barrier to implementing major gambling policy changes in the UK, with resistance mostly coming from the “media, party colleagues, and the gambling industry” according to SMF notes.

Public Opinion Not the Main Barrier to Gambling Policy Changes

SMF this week published its second briefing paper titled “A bitter taste? Exploring the political constraints on public health policies” exploring policies for public health issues, including tobacco, alcohol, obesity, and gambling. SMF looked into the political opportunities and constraints around action on these issues by reviewing polling evidence dating back to 2015, as well as interviews with relevant policymakers.

When it comes to gambling policies, the paper highlighted that there is a relatively negative sentiment among the UK public towards gambling. For instance, a survey conducted by the UK Gambling Commission (UKGC) in 2019 showed that the vast majority of Brits (82%) believe there are excessive opportunities for gambling, with 62% sharing the view that gambling must be discouraged.

A further 29% of the respondents think gambling should be entirely banned in the UK.

The SMF paper also highlighted that the debate about gambling policy becomes unhealthy at times, with gambling reform advocates often labeled as “prohibitionists

Polling evidence shows that the public is dissatisfied with the government’s current approach and lack of action on issues concerning public health, including gambling. SMF points out that the UK public generally supports major policy changes, but the introduction of new rules and measures has been impeded mainly by opposition from the media, the gambling sector, and politicians.

With this, researchers stated that the public health policy campaign is a “long-term project” that requires political capital and stamina.

SMF Recommendations

UK politicians in favor of reforms and keen on taking action to address public health issues such as gambling may adopt at least two strategic approaches, as recommended by SMF. These are – building “scoreboard momentum” (coming up with proposals that are likely to be approved) and take two steps forward, one step back (adopting a maximalist approach and acknowledging that some proposals will be opposed).

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