Criticism From House of Lords: White Paper Measures and Consultations

Criticism From House of Lords: White Paper Measures and Consultations

The White Paper is out, bringing reform for the UK gambling industry, but it’s not complaint-free as feathers are ruffled in the House of Lords.

The UK’s new White Paper on gambling reform was released on April 23rd, and it signalled a change in regulation for UK operators with new rules, including max stakes on slot machines, bonuses, and other measures, like upcoming rules on wagering requirements, which the Government is leaving the UKGC to hash out.

So, what’s the issue, and why has the White Paper ruffled feathers in the House of Lords? The explanation requires a little context. The White Paper was initiated in 2020, up for publication in 2022. However, it has been severely delayed, passing through several governments, including Johnson, Truss, and Sunak, and has seen more than six gambling ministers preside over its completion.

The Gambling Reform is contentious, somewhat a political hot potato; it aims to update gambling regulations for the digital age, essentially curtailing one of the UK’s biggest markets and tax generators through more rules for operators.

This has led to speculation that the original plans for the White Paper, including a ban on front-of-shirt sports advertising, affordability checks for players, and a statutory levy for operators, have been watered down.

There has been intense lobbying for gambling reform from charities, NGOs, and the families of those who have been affected by gambling harms (with over 400 gambling-related suicides per year and 300,000 people experiencing problem gambling, the families argue that the UK gambling market was liberalised too far in 2005, and there must now be more regulation, aimed at online gambling, to protect players) and for a balanced approach from the gambling industry’s vocal and well-resourced body, The Betting and Gaming Council.

Last week, the House of Lords broadly welcomed the publication and contents of the White Paper. However, some said it needed to go further, highlighting that the document did not add any new regulations regarding advertising, leaving many areas open to consultation.

The main issue is that consultations take time, and consultations on each proposed area preceded the White Paper. Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Department for Culture Media and Sport Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay took questions from the House, explaining that the two consultation sessions differed. “There is a difference between the consultation that led to the white paper, on what to do and whether to do it, and the consultation now on how to do it.”

Parkinson added that the upcoming consultation would cover areas not included as primary legislation in the White Paper, including the statutory levy for operators. Parkinson also reminded the House to follow due process and consult on detailed areas to assess their impact. This approach would minimise the risk of legal challenges and further delays.

Outside of the House of Lords, many have called the White Paper a step in the right direction, but echoing criticisms, especially regarding the lack of a total ban on sports gambling advertising.

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