White Paper Publication Expected Imminently
The industry rumour is tentatively at work this week, spreading news of the White Paper’s imminent publication, which will end years of government work and the contributions of subsequent gambling ministers. However, spokespersons from the Department of Digital Culture Media and Sports have yet to commit to a date, despite mainstream press reporting its imminent release.
Initiated by Johnson’s government in 2020, the White Paper was recorded as ready to be signed off on in the summer of 2022 (the then gambling minister Chris Philip said as much in his resignation letter) but has since seen subsequent delays and two government changes.
The Gambling Act Review has provided more of a political hot potato than expected, as it will effectively rein in the UK gambling market, reducing revenue and increasing existing regulations. As such, the industry has keenly awaited its publication, while several different Gambling and Culture ministers have taken charge, only to leave office without publishing the document.
What’s on the White Paper?
The White Paper is controversial because it’s set to roll back reforms in what has become known as one of the most liberalised gambling jurisdictions globally.
Affordability checks have long been leaked as a key part of the reform, along with maximum slot stake limits, which have now been reported as £2 for those 18-25 (the highest risk group for high-risk behaviours) and £15 a spin for older players, potential bonus term reform, and a mandatory levy for operators.
At one point, the White Paper was also expected to address gambling brands and sports sponsorship. However, the proposed shirt sponsorship ban is now said to be reduced to a voluntary measure, which is well-timed with the EPL’s decision last week to ban gambling brands on the front of matchday shirts.
Reaction from the BBC
Earlier this month, the BBC, who have been critical of certain aspects of the White Paper, came out in support of the mandatory levy, which will be used to fund responsible gambling research and treatment.
While the operator-led organisation has unequivocally said they support the Gambling Act Review, they have also cautioned on multiple occasions that new regulations, especially invasive ones, like affordability checks and other spending limits, may attract consumers offshore. Some of the UK’s biggest gambling operators have also met with the Treasury separately to lobby against excessive gambling reforms.
“The industry wants to get away with the minimum change that they can. Surely they must know what damage it causes.”
NGOs, especially those supported by families of problem gamblers, like Gambling with Lives, have campaigned for the Gambling Review since the beginning. Many of these stakeholders have expressed concern over the months of delays to the White Paper’s publication, stating that the time lapse is allowing more UK players to experience harm, so news it’s coming soon is celebratory.
For the NGOs and bodies specialising in responsible gambling, the White Paper’s publication will mean final confirmation of whether there will be a mandatory and sustainable funding system for gambling treatment and research.
Next steps: the road to implementation
Once the White Paper is published, there will be consultations on implementation, headed by the UK Gambling Commission and involving stakeholders. It will likely take around a year for the contents to be finalised and ready to implement.