Back in 2020, the UK Government announced a review of The Gambling Act 2005. This, it said, would allow it to see what features were plausible for the modern gambling age. At the same time, any parts of it that aren’t relevant have the potential for change. This was exactly what anti-gambling campaigners had been calling for.
Things seemed to be looking up for those who had lost people to gambling addiction. Yet it did also mean that operators would likely have to adhere to more stringent rules. This didn’t sit well with them, and that was also the case for some MPs in government.
Since 2020, these Members of Parliament have engaged in wars of words. Some are all for the gambling reform, while others have little interest in such change. Even with this being the case, a white paper on proposed changes was on the horizon.
It was first to be published towards the end of 2021, although this never materialised. A postponement said it would come to light at the beginning of 2022. This was another of many setbacks for the white paper. In July, it went through a fourth delay, thanks to the resignation of Boris Johnson. According to advisors, publication of the white paper could not occur until a new leader came to power.
Liz Truss assumed the role of Conservative leader and Prime Minister in September. Many hoped that she would set about introducing policies to help with the cost of living. There was also the desire for the white paper on gambling reform to appear and although it wasn’t a priority for the new government a new culture minister was installed, Michelle Donelan, and it looked like we might see the review later this year.
That was until Truss resigned after just 45 days as the shortest serving PM in history. Now we have a new Tory leader and PM to be installed, along with potentially yet another culture minister, which now means we won’t see the white paper until next year at the earliest, if at all in this parliament. In effect Tory infighting and indecision could be putting thousands of problem gamblers at further risk in the meantime.
Latest News Suggests Gambling Reform Kicked to the Curb
There hasn’t been an official announcement on gambling reform in the UK as of late. Truss in her short tenure never uttered a word about it, and neither have many MPs since Johnson resigned. Many believe that the Conservative Party are shelving the plans for the white paper. The issue is that they’re doing this on the down low, without voicing any message about it.
Because of the lack of information on it, the more likely outcome is that it is already scrapped. Despite the long wait for change, there is a strong chance it isn’t actually going to happen.
Reports suggested that the white paper was already due for publication in June. At that time, Boris Johnson was still the country’s Prime Minister. His resignation one month later led to this not taking place.
New cabinet ministers under Liz Truss reportedly ditched certain things, though. Just one week after the new PM came to power, various items fell off the radar. Cabinet ministers took the axe to many pieces of legislation due for introduction. Liz Truss herself even indicated that she would end certain strategies, too. This not only includes the bill of rights and caps on banker bonuses, but gambling reform as well. The online harms bill and obesity strategy were also highlighted as unimportant.
Truss had placed a lot of focus on economic growth in the UK, rather than regulation. That doesn’t stand out as a good thing for anti-gambling campaigners. It is likely whoever comes in as leader will also have little appetite to deal with gambling reform in the immediate term either.
Of course, operators of gambling in the country may be able to relax for now but there is a prospect that this government might fail and not make it to 2025. Any election would likely install Labour into power and that would mean far more stringent rules coming in, something industry certainly would not be happy with.
Many Bills Scrapped or Redrafted
Kwarteng lifted the cap on bankers’ bonuses and reduced the top rate of tax, which fuelled a big backlash by many and led to him being fired, Jeremy Hunt installed as chancellor and most of the tax cuts reversed.
Yet the hope by Truss and her government that this would reward them with votes in the future was misplaced and ultimately led to her downfall. The gamble is there that the Conservatives will achieve economic growth. This, they believe, will see people overlook smaller and unpopular measures and forget about things like the gambling review.
The online safety bill is likely to go through a radical redraft before the gambling review. Certain MPs complained at volume about its restrictions on free speech. And when it comes to the gambling reform white paper, the guillotine is hanging over it. Truss had no desire to burden businesses with such regulatory reform as this and it is likely a new leader will feel the same way. If the government does scrap it though, it may cause some discontent.
Chief secretary to the Treasury (at the time of writing), Chris Philp, has championed the reforms. Upon resigning from Johnson’s cabinet, he highlighted such as a reason for leaving. At that time, he served as Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Tech and the Digital Economy. Following his support for Truss’s bid to become leader, she added him to her cabinet. Time will tell whether he can push the white paper through or not.
In his speech in March of 2022, Philp said:
“Reform is undoubtedly long overdue. We’re working on a white paper which will set out a revised policy in this area, and it is due to be published very soon.”
At the same time, he noted that he would not be able to comment on the policies involved.
“We’ve heard too many cases of operators failing to meet their duties to protect people”,
he said. Philp went on to highlight the various fines that the UKGC has issued to operators recently.
It didn’t take long after this for several MPs to take things a bit further. A letter was to reach the Prime Minister about his advisers with links to the gambling industry. This, they said, would see them oppose reform and tighter regulation in an outright way. Yet when Truss took control with a new cabinet, the white paper has disappeared.
The demand for change and extra legislation remains. Even with this being the case though, it doesn’t seem like Parliament has much interest in it. Truss spoke out against certain things in her early days as PM, saying:
“Government’s role should not be to tell us what our tastes should be. Too often we’re hearing about not drinking too much, eating too many doughnuts”.
Truss isn’t around anymore and so this doesn’t mean that gambling reform is off the table altogether. Even if the white paper gets thrown in the trash, there is a potential for something different. A complete do-over from scratch could take place instead. Although this would mean even more delays to something that many have wanted for a long time. In the meantime people with gambling problems who may need new rules to help them are being let down by the conservatives yet again.