John Whittingdale MP takes over ministerial responsibility for the review of the Gambling Act 2005

John Whittingdale, the Minister for Media and Data in the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), has today (2 March 2021) taken over from Nigel Huddleston ministerial responsibility for lotteries and gambling.

One major consequence of this is that Whittingdale will now be overseeing the UK Government review of the Gambling Act 2005, launched by his predecessor on 8 December 2020.

As pointed out today by iGB: “Whittingdale became Minister of State for Media and Data in February 2020. His parliamentary record shows that he voted against giving local councils the powers to limit the number of fixed-odds betting terminals (FOBTs) and betting shops in their districts in 2014. He has also voted in parliament to increase the stake and prize limits of certain categories of gambling machine, and in 2013 voted not to require gambling operators to ban players who had registered for self-exclusion”.

It is little surprise then that The Guardian has (earlier today) announced Whittingdale’s appointment under the heading: “Tory minister who backed FOBTs takes over review of gambling laws”, adding “John Whittingdale has a history of voting against stronger regulation of the industry”. It quotes Carolyn Harris, the Chair of the Gambling Related Harm APPG as saying: “Given the new appointee has a history of being strongly supportive of the industry, I very much hope he will be focused on the evidence and not influenced by aggressive industry lobbying.”

The Betting and Gaming Council has issued the following statement on its website:

BGC Chief Executive Michael Dugher has congratulated John Whittingdale after he was given ministerial responsibility for gambling and lotteries.

Betting and Gaming Council congratulates John Whittingdale on his new ministerial responsibility for gambling

Standards body the Betting and Gaming Council has congratulated John Whittingdale after he was given ministerial responsibility for gambling and lotteries.

The DCMS minister has taken over the role from Nigel Huddleston, who had been leading on the Government’s Gambling Review launched last December.

Mr Whittingdale, the MP for Maldon, has previously been Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, as well as Chair of the Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee.

He takes over the gambling and lotteries brief as the Government’s call for evidence on the Gambling Review continues.

Michael Dugher, chief executive of the BGC, said:

“I’d like to welcome John Whittingdale to his expanded role and enhanced responsibilities at DCMS. I know John well from my time in Parliament and in the music industry. John commands huge respect and he is a formidable politician who brings a wealth of experience and knowledge. The BGC represents the bulk of the regulated sector – from high street betting shops, casinos, online gaming and bingo – and we look forward to working with him.

This is an uncertain time for many of the more than 100,000 people who work in the industry as we navigate the sector safely out of the covid restrictions. Our industry wants to play a full part in helping kickstart the economy, supporting jobs and growth, and contributing to the exchequer.

The BGC has warmly welcomed the Government’s Gambling Review, which is a golden opportunity to build on the work we have already done on raising standards, promoting safer gambling and driving big changes across the industry. We know how important that work is to the DCMS.

I’d also like to pay tribute to Nigel Huddleston, who has done a superb job in challenging circumstances. He always understood the importance of the industry to the economy and to millions of people to regularly and safely enjoy a flutter. And he was always willing to engage with us, in particular in championing continued progress on safer gambling. Given the important contribution the betting industry makes to sport and the ongoing challenges facing sport’s finances, we look forward to continuing to work with him and we wish him all the very best”.

We will no doubt be hearing a great deal from John Whittingdale in the coming months, given that the review of the Gambling Act 2005 looks set to last throughout 2021 and well into 2022, according to comments made by Ben Dean, Director of DCMS Sport & Gambling at the Westminster Media Forum “Future for Gambling Regulation” conference held on 25 February 2021. However, that same source leads us to anticipate that a Government White Paper should be published before the end of this year once roundtable sessions have concluded and responses have been collated.