UK Focus: New Prime Minister - new Gambling White Paper?

As we go “Heads Up” with the final two in the race to become the next Prime Minister, what might we expect for the Gambling Review from each of the contenders? Gambling writer Jon Bryan examines where we are and what might happen.

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So we are down to the final two candidates to be the next leader of the Conservative Party and the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. It is now over to party members to make the choice between them. Are they “Ready for Rishi?” Can they put their “Trust in Truss?” We’ll find out in the coming weeks, and the new PM will then set about appointing a fresh cabinet, new ministers and spell out what their plans are for this next phase of Conservative Government.

Some of us, including this writer, are now looking at this contest with one specific question: What happens to the Gambling Review when we know who the winner is?

I know I’m not the only one thinking about it: those in the gambling industry with an eye on Westminster changes will be watching, as will the anti-gambling groups, who wish to see more restrictions being introduced. Some of the Gambling Reform lobby couldn’t hide their annoyance at the delay to the Gambling Review, with Matt Zarb-Cousin taking aim at Michael Dugher from the Betting and Gaming Council (BGC) on social media:

‘You did a good job trying to delay the White Paper so your members can cash in on the status quo for a while, so bravo’

The BGC was also attacked by the organisation Justice 4 Punters, which blamed it for the delay to the White Paper:

‘All you've done is extend the agony for all concerned. Why?’ declared its Twitter account.

Rob Davies from The Guardian reported that there was ‘dismay’ about the delay to the White Paper, but admitted in the article that this sentiment was really just being expressed by ‘those pushing for tougher reforms.’

It is peculiar, though, to lay the blame for all of this delay on one organisation, assuming that it wields such power to be able to turn things on and then off within the Government

I find it both sad and amusing that a delay to the White Paper on gambling is described by some in this way. I’ve commented elsewhere about the problems for businesses with the uncertainty of all of this. It is peculiar, though, to lay the blame for all of this delay on one organisation, assuming that it wields such power to be able to turn things on and then off within the Government.

Of course, the irony is that it’s the previous Minister for Gambling, Chris Philp MP, who we can probably point the finger at for the delay with the Gambling Review. Had he hung on to his portfolio for just a few more minutes, it’s possible we would now be discussing his White Paper, rather than the implications for gambling of a Sunak or Truss Premiership.

This brings us back to the question of the next Prime Minister and what they might do with gambling regulation. Philp, the Minister who had concluded the review and sent the White Paper to No. 10, is backing Liz Truss for leader. His previous pick of Sajid Javid didn’t make it to the starting line, so he doesn’t have form for always backing a winner. He was one of the last to leave Boris Johnson, and became known as the politician who introduced the Benny Hill theme tune to a new generation: it blared out in the background while he was being interviewed live on national news as the Government fell apart while he spoke.

For us outside observers, Philp’s support for Liz Truss perhaps gives us an indication of where Truss might take the Gambling White Paper if she becomes Prime Minister. But that does assume that she backs him in the same way he backs her. Philp and his views could be seen as tainted goods by some, especially as he was taken to task last month on Newsnight by trade union leader Mick Lynch, who continually called the minister a ‘liar’ about what he was saying regarding strike action on the rail network.

The pause that is being taken in government offers an opportunity to have a reset and to ‘look again’ at the data that is being relied upon in this review. Let us hope the next Prime Minister, their new Government and the Gambling Minister does just that

In summaries about what a Liz Truss Prime Minister might do, it is widely reported that she has ‘voted against heightened gambling restrictions’ and that she is a candidate who loves freedom, with one MP saying it is her favourite word. Whether her love of freedom extends to distaste for increased restrictions on gambling, we will have to wait and see.

So what about Rishi Sunak – the ex-Chancellor of the Exchequer? What might we get from Prime Minister Sunak? As Gambling Insider has previously covered, Sunak voiced concerns this year about where the Gambling Review might be heading. He also asked questions last year including concerns about ‘affordability checks.’ Sunak’s constituency in North Yorkshire is home to Catterick Racecourse, so that will influence him. One strand of discussion in the Gambling Review has been whether some sports like horseracing will be exempt from detrimental measures in a future White Paper, something that is likely to appeal to Sunak given what some of his constituents will be lobbying him about.

It’s reported that the ex-leader of the Conservative Party and long-time anti-gambling campaigner, Sir Iain Duncan-Smith MP, is backing Liz Truss. He says ‘she is keen to do something’ on gambling. On Sunak, ‘I don’t know about Rishi’ was the comment from Duncan-Smith.

We’ll find out soon enough who will take us through the next stages as our Prime Minister. Whoever wins, and whoever they appoint as the minister with the responsibility to take the Gambling Review forward, I am hoping they won’t just plough on with all the mistakes that have already been made. As Dan Waugh from Regulus Partners noted in the Racing Post this week, the pause that is being taken in government offers an opportunity to have a reset and to ‘look again’ at the data that is being relied upon in this review.

Let us hope the next Prime Minister, their new Government and the Gambling Minister does just that.

Jon Bryan is a Gambling Writer and Poker Player. Follow him on Twitter @JonBryanPoker


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