Michael Dugher: Public favours common-sense approach to govern gambling’s future. 

Michael Dugher has warned the government that it risks alienating itself from public opinion should it conform to prohibitionists’ approach to gambling regulation. 

Writing in Commons news source Politics Home, the Chief Executive of the Betting and Gaming Council (BGC) reflected on political opinion and commentary in light of May’s Local Election results.

“For the Conservatives, results showed predictable mid-term blues and whilst there were warning signs of trouble ahead, results were not entirely catastrophic.” Dugher noted.

Moving onwards, of utmost concern to the public and UK business, will be the government’s approach to navigating “politically choppy waters and with dark, foreboding economic clouds on the horizon”.

Reflections from Conservative peers and policy advisors point toward the government returning to party fundamentals, focusing on smaller state intervention and freeing up businesses to counter their economic realities.

Of note, Dugher referenced the words of David Canzini, the PM’s recently hired Deputy Chief of Staff who warned colleagues in No 10 that “Conservative governments don’t legislate their way to economic growth”.

Party opinions have provided food for thought for the UK gambling sector that awaits to find out the generational outcomes of the government’s review of the 2005 Gambling Act.

Of concern to industry stakeholders, the review’s loudest voice has been given to “anti-gambling prohibitionists, who’s default position is just to ban stuff, are determined to use a pseudo public health approach as a Trojan horse to deliver draconian state regulations over how millions of individuals choose to spend their time and their own money”

The anti-gambling campaigners have put forward a series of flawed policy proposals that have advised the government to impose £100 a month affordability checks, £2 stake limit on online slots and a damaging ‘statutory levy’ that would harm progress on the research and prevention of problem gambling harms. 

Whilst the recommendations of prohibitionists have been clearly heard, Dugher questioned whether the sentiment of the General Public had been considered ahead of reforms being delivered. 

Conducting group research with pollsters Public First, the BGC has stated that public feedback has provided a “sobering wake-up call for government”. 

Feedback relayed that the general public was astonished that the government was considering such ‘big brother style’ draconian measures to regulate the gambling sectors, with methods deemed as wholly unconservative for consumers. 

“Polling backs up much of this anger. A YouGov poll for the BGC found almost 60 per cent of punters thought the Government should not be allowed to set limits on how much money they could be.”

Criticism of anti-gambling measures did not imply that the government should abandon big changes regulating the UK gambling sector.

Throughout the two-year-long process of reviewing the Gambling Act, BGC members have presented arguments and countermeasures that have been backed by evidence to better safeguard the sector, which has always been popular with the UK public. 

Dugher explained – “The Government needs to tread carefully. Ministers might not like a bet themselves. But millions of people do. Gambling regulation won’t decide the next election. But people think politicians in Westminster live on a different planet as it is. Telling the good voters what they can and cannot do with their own money won’t help.

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