Gambling Minister gives interesting answers to ‘topical questions’ in Parliament today

Interesting comments by way of answers to ‘topical questions’ have been made in the House of Commons today (6 January 2022) by Gambling Minister Chris Philp MP.

The first set of comments (set out below) focus on the Review of the Gambling Act 2005:

  • including a remark by the Gambling Minister about “some extremely troubling practices, particularly among online gambling firms” and
  • culminating in a fairly non-committal remark by him that the Government intends to publish the White Paper as soon as possible in the coming months”:
Rachael Maskell (York Central) (Lab/Co-op)
7. What progress she has made on her review of the Gambling Act 2005. (904870)
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (Chris Philp)
Happy new year, Mr Speaker. The Gambling Act review is a priority for the Department. We are currently working very carefully through the evidence, including the 16,000 submissions that we received. Our intention is to find ways of introducing reforms to prevent the serious harm caused by gambling addiction while allowing those who can bet safely to do so, and we will publish a White Paper setting out our plans in the very near future.
Rachael Maskell
With gambling firms grooming and sucking vulnerable people into a web of debt and despair, it is crucial that the Government outlaw their exploitative practices as soon as possible. As for their victims, will the Minister commit to talk to Ministers in the Department of Health and Social Care so that, alongside his strategy, a comprehensive public health strategy is generated to provide support for people who have experienced gambling harm and to protect people from being sucked into that place?
Chris Philp
I agree with the hon. Lady. There are some extremely troubling practices, particularly among online gambling firms, that, as she says, lead people down a path to a very dark place that sometimes leads to suicide. I have met many of the families whose sons, daughters, husbands or wives have tragically committed suicide as a result of gambling addiction.
On co-operating with DHSC, I have already met my colleague the Health Minister to discuss this issue and will be meeting her again on this topic. I have also met NHS clinicians such as Dr Matt Gaskell, who runs the Northern Gambling Clinic in Leeds, to discuss these issues. I have received his very interesting, constructive and useful ideas, which are feeding directly into the review.
Tracey Crouch (Chatham and Aylesford) (Con)
While taking evidence from fans during the football review, I was struck by their unprompted concern about the amount of gambling-related content in football. I appreciate that the Minister is new in his role, but could he tell the House whether he or his predecessor have had a chance to meet football fans to discuss their concerns ahead of publication of the review?
Chris Philp
I thank my hon. Friend for her work in this area, and particularly for her work on the fan-led review. As a fan of Crystal Palace—a proud south London club—I am very keen to make sure that football fans’ voices are heard. Next week, I am meeting a number of sporting organisations, including the Lawn Tennis Association, the England and Wales Cricket Board, the Rugby Football League, the Football Association, the Football League and England Golf. Following the conversation that my hon. Friend and I had on the phone a day or two ago, I have already asked my office to arrange a meeting with the Football Supporters Association, which I hope will happen in the coming days or weeks.
Jim Shannon (Strangford) (DUP)
I welcome the Minister’s commitment to the changes that we all wish to see, but does he believe that the review will result in a strengthening of measures to prevent under-age gambling? When can we expect to see the desperately needed changes come before the House?
Chris Philp
Yes, I expect that we will see a strengthening of age-related measures and, indeed, a strengthening of measures more widely, for the reasons that we have mentioned already. Because it is urgent, as the hon. Member says, we intend to publish the White Paper as soon as possible in the coming months.
Ruth Cadbury (Brentford and Isleworth) (Lab)
The minor reforms made as a result of the collapse of the Football Index by the Secretary of State’s Department are thin gruel for my constituents who lost thousands through that scam. What are the Government doing to ensure that both the Gambling Commission and the Financial Conduct Authority are fit for purpose, and that my constituents get the justice that they deserve after the collapse of that scam, the Football Index?
Chris Philp
The Gambling Commission has revoked the licence of the Football Index’s operator. The individuals have surrendered their personal licences. The matter has been referred to the Insolvency Service, which is investigating allegations of directors’ misconduct. It has the power to conduct criminal investigations and criminal prosecutions, including for fraud if appropriate. On the broader question of compensation, there is no statutory basis upon which compensation can be paid to people who have lost money as a result of the collapse of a betting firm, but the investigations by the Insolvency Service are ongoing.
UPDATE: In an interview on RacingTV on 23 January, former Gambling Minister John Whittingdale indicated that publication of the White Paper has now been set back to Easter (i.e. mid-April this year).