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Kyamil Nasuf July 15, 2022 4 min read
UK Gambling Reform Delayed Yet Again Amid Political Turbulence
This is the fourth time the white paper outlining the future of the gambling industry in the UK is being delayed. Contrasting political, business and health-related interests continually disrupt the future of gambling in the UK.
White Paper Publication on Hold Until Elections
The white paper in question was meant to summarize the results of a review, launched in late 2020 into UK’s 2005 Gambling Act. Reform proponents have been busy since 2019 and it was thought this white paper would bring about much-needed updates and regulatory upgrades that address gambling operations in the UK. A couple of weeks ago, it was almost certain that the white paper’s release was imminent. However, the paper’s publication has had a very tumultuous history and that proves true yet again.
The Guardian reports that some Tory MPs and Boris Johnson advisers have concluded the white paper cannot be released until a new Conservative leader was elected to replace Johnson as prime minister. Johnson’s authority is crumbling, and Conservative MPs grow more and more frustrated by their losses, risking losing seats. David Canzini – a senior Johnson adviser, who was previously working at CT Group, a lobbying firm with ties to gambling – has reportedly brought to Johnson’s attention that the white paper cannot be published because it would require signing by his successor.
This pushes the new deadline to September at the earliest, when a new Conservative leader will be elected, constituting a huge blow to pro-reformers. A tangled web of political and economic interests has been the name of the game for almost two years, with conflicting views both within and without the Conservatives. Sir Iain Duncan Smith was very outspoken when criticizing the delays, focusing on the harmful effects of industry, regulated with almost two-decade-old statutes.
The previous deadline was supposed to be before the summer recess on July 21, was optimistic, according to some MPs and insiders, as the reform is spearheaded by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS). Damian Collins recently took on the role of parliamentary under-secretary of state for online safety at the DCMS, and was tasked with overseeing the release of the document just a fortnight ago, so he still has a lot to catch up on to get up to speed on the biggest reform efforts in the history of the 2005 Gambling Act.
Thousands at Risk Because Of Delay
Another side, voicing its discontentment and concerns was that of charities such as GambleAware, aiming at helping people avoid or cope with gambling harms. Zoe Osmond from GambleAware was cited by the Belfast Telegraph, saying “We are deeply concerned by the risk of further delays to the gambling White Paper. Failure to act now puts more people at risk of gambling harms and only exacerbates what is an increasingly serious public health issue.”
Gambling With Lives is a charity, founded by – and aimed at helping – families, with children who’ve taken their lives because of gambling addiction. A spokesperson told the Guardian that “Tens of thousands more people will be harmed and some will die as a result of this inexcusable delay,” strongly condemning the government’s inability to push the document forward.
As conflicting interests meddle with the process of reforming a hotly debated and obviously problematic legislation, it’s important to note that a rushed decision might not be the most desirable outcome from a process that it supposedly nearing its completion.
Sir Iain Duncan Smith Duncan Smith was reported saying he would “go to war” with the government, if it meant implementing tougher reforms, still commented that although the white paper “wasn’t perfect,” he still would’ve “accepted it because it’s an advance on where we’ve been,” further ascertaining that in the end, some action might be better than no action. At least in the short term, this might be very true.