Timing of Gambling Act Review White Paper thrown into doubt by resignation of the Gambling Minister

Shortly before the announcement this morning (7 July 2022) that Boris Johnson would be resigning as leader of the Conservative Party, Gambling Minister Chris Philp tweeted as follows:

I’m deeply saddened it has come to this, but the PM should step down given public and Parliamentary confidence has clearly gone, and given the importance of integrity in public life. I’m therefore stepping down as Minister for Tech and the Digital Economy now.

His resignation letter to the Prime Minister (shown below) confirms that: “The Gambling Review is with No. 10 at the moment for final approval, containing strong measures to protect people from the ravages of gambling addiction. I have met with the families of those who have committed suicide as a result of gambling addiction, and I strongly urge you to deliver the review in full and undiluted”.

As we publish this posting, the BBC reports it has been told that Boris Johnson will remain the Prime Minister until the autumn on the basis that “a Conservative leadership race will take place this summer and a new Prime Minister will be in place in time for the Tory party conference in October”. 

It must be open to serious question whether the Gambling Act Review White Paper (to which Chris Philp is referring in his above letter) will be near the top of the Government’s current list of priorities, particularly in the absence of the Minister responsible for its origination or, for that matter, any Government Minister who may in due course take over the gambling portfolio, particularly if they have no previous experience in this area.

NOTE: On 5 July 2022, Chris Philp gave evidence at the fifth oral evidence session of the DCMS Committee’s “What next for the National Lottery?” Inquiry, when he answered questions not only on that particular subject-matter but also in relation to the forthcoming Gambling Act Review White Paper. A transcript of his evidence has yet to be published, but the whole session can be viewed on ParliamentLive.TV here.

On that same day, the Racing Post published an article setting out its understanding “that a proposal contained in the White Paper places the threshold for enhanced affordability checks at a net loss of £2,000 over a 90-day period”. It went on to quote the reaction to this of Michael Dugher, CEO of the Betting and Gaming Council:

I have not seen the White Paper but, from what we believe is the case, alarm bells should be ringing among punters and racing about what the real impact of the government’s potential affordability checks would be.

At BGC we have strongly supported enhanced spending checks for online gambling, and we’ve spent a lot of time talking to the government about that.

It’s really about ensuring two things. That the government is targeting checks and any restrictions for those who are at risk, those who are vulnerable and those who are showing signs of problem gambling, but they leave the vast majority of punters who do bet safely alone. The issue then becomes about what levels and the nature of the checks, and I think there is some concern.

To go for £2,000 but over 90 days is stretching the credibility of that assertion because what you are really looking at is £600 a month.

They’ve got to be explicit in the white paper and in the direction that they give to the Gambling Commission that checks at that kind of level genuinely have to be non-intrusive, and that they won’t default to a demand for documentation – wage slips and bank statements.

They need to be wary of the impact that asking customers for consent to access their private financial data has in terms of leading to an exodus of customers to the unsafe and unregulated black market.