New Government, New Gambling Regulations: Will Truss Scrap White Paper?
There’s a rumor in Whitehall that out with the old might just mean out with the old for the UK Gambling Review. This week, gambling industry stakeholders preemptively celebrated the news that the upcoming White Paper and Gambling Review might get scrapped by Truss’s new government. However, experts warn it might not all be good news.
Earlier this week, The Guardian published an analytical piece by their Chief Political Correspondent, Jessica Elgot, discussing which upcoming legislation the new UK government was likely to shelve. The article named the gambling reform as being up there for the chop, stating it would “fit the mould of the kind of regulatory reform that Truss is keen to avoid burdening businesses with.” It was greeted with almost industry-wide celebration.
What’s the Current Status of the Gambling Review?
The Gambling Review began in late 2020, having initially been included in the 2019 Conservative Party manifesto. The White Paper, which would lay out the government’s intended regulations, was due for publication in April 2022. However, its release has been stalled several times, and to date, we’ve seen nothing. One of the primary reasons for the delays is that four ministers have overseen its creation thus far.
Chris Philip, ex-Cheif Secretary to the Treasury, was a champion of the reforms but resigned in July, stating that the White Paper was already “with No 10 for final approval”. However, this was shortly followed by the Conservative leadership contest, which has since been the focus of attention, slowing down the process further and bringing most new legislation to a halt.
It was widely accepted that the new Prime Minister would publish the document, but this is now in question as Truss has new economic objectives with which the gambling review seems unaligned.
What’s the Controversy?
With the current 2005 Gambling Act horrendously outdated for the modern age, most UK gambling industry accepts and agrees it’s time for updated laws supporting sustainable online gambling. However, the gambling review was set to cover a vast range of legislation that many argued, such as The Betting and Gambling Council (BGC), was too restrictive and would drive gambling offshore.
Measures thought to be included in the review were mandatory per player budgets and invasive financial checks. Concerned stakeholders and the BGC cited how tighter legislation in other EU countries (namely France and Norway) over the last few years corresponded with a considerable growth in offshore gambling, which put more players at risk.
Is it Good News if the Review is Scrapped?
Since The Guardian published their piece, Regulus Partners Analyst, Dan Waugh, has also weighed in, stating that despite the potentially overly strict new rules, foregoing the review at this point might be worse than publishing the new regulations. In his opinion, it largely depends on whether “the review itself is a distraction, or if there isn’t parliamentary time to implement the outcomes.”
He continued that given the current state of geopolitical concerns and internal politics in the UK, it seems more likely a case of the latter. While also highlighting that the Review was too far underway just to abandon, hoping that, at the minimum, the government would publish their findings so that the whole project has not been a “catastrophic waste of time and resources,” leaving legitimate concerns, like the very outdated UK gambling laws unaddressed.
Lastly, he voiced concerns that without government legislation addressing the need for more modern gambling laws, the Gambling Commission would be left free rein to implement similar measures, but in a less transparent manner and without the benefit of “public and parliamentary scrutiny and due process.”