Gambling Act Review TimeTable Confirmed by Gambling Minister
MP Stuart Andrew, AKA the Gambling Minister, has reaffirmed the government’s January 2024 deadline to publish its formal gambling act review proposals, with implementation set for the summer. He reiterated the timeline during his speech to industry stakeholders at this year’s British Amusement Catering Trade Association (Bacta) Convention.
The convention, which is an annual industry event, started on November 22nd and included speakers from the UK amusement industry, including Kate Nicholls, Chief Executive of UKHospitality; Michael Dugher, CEO of the Betting and Gaming Council; and Andrew Rhodes, CEO of the UK Gambling Commission.
This year’s event has been called one of the most significant for the industry, bringing together voices from different sectors to discuss the challenges ahead. It is also one of few events where industry leaders could question the Gambling Minister directly regarding the Gambling Act Review and White Paper. Andrew spoke to an audience of over 200 during his address, stating it is “absolutely our ambition to stick to the published timetable.”
He faced several difficult questions from the audience during the Q&A, including one which challenged how much most MPs knew of the industry. Another questioned why the government had not addressed loot boxes in video games in the White Paper, which Martin Burlin, chairman of the UK trade show EAG Expo, said was the most significant issue currently impacting children.
In response to the first question, Andrew implored Bacta members to engage with their MPs and even invite them onsite to understand more about gambling business operations and their challenges. In response to the second, Andrew confirmed that the government has been discussing with the video gaming industry, giving them a 12-month grace period to suggest suitable reforms and a way forward.
During his speech, Andrew thanked Bacta for their support in providing evidence that informed the White Paper. He also recognised the importance of the land-based sector in supporting high streets throughout the UK.
Uncertainty Remains: Ongoing UKGC Consultations
Despite reconfirming the timetable, uncertainty regarding the exact timing and content of the Gambling Review Act is still unclear. The UKGC is busy undertaking the ongoing industry consultations that will inform the final provisions of the act.
Thus far, consultations have been completed regarding age verification on-premises, remote games design, direct marketing and cross-selling, and financial risk and vulnerability checks for remote operators. The next round of consultations is scheduled to start in the coming weeks. The UKGC’s Tim Miller has recently contradicted the Government’s timeline, stating he expects the second round to close in February- March 2024, which is later than the January deadline.
Miller has also previously said they expect full implementation of all the new reforms to take much longer than anticipated, likely years. The UKGC has also argued the need for lengthy consultations to ensure the sustainability and correct implementation of the reforms; “Whilst we will move quickly to start implementing White Paper commitments, we will also want to ensure that as wide a variety of experiences and expertise inform the way that those commitments are turned into practical reality. History shows too many examples of well-meaning policy changes having unintended consequences for the public due to the way they were implemented in the real world. We will not want to make that mistake.”
Will the finalised reforms be ready to be announced by January? Despite ambitious government targets, it seems unlikely as there are still seven consultation areas to cover. Additionally, the first round encountered delays due to stakeholder confusion in several areas, like affordability checks, which the UKGC addressed. This means implementation may be staggered, with the easier-to-implement/less controversial policies input first.