Jack Brereton MP has argued that rushing the Gambling Act review amid the ongoing political situation in Westminster ‘would be a mistake’, as other legislative decisions are delayed.
Writing in Politics Home, the Conservative representative for Stoke-on-Trent South – whose Adjutant constituency, Stoke-on-Trent Central, is home to bet365’s head office – highlighted ‘concerning’ reports about the apparently forthcoming White Paper’s judgements.
Brereton was supportive of reports that Ministers, such as the now-resigned Chris Philp, have rejected the notion of a statutory levy for research, education and treatment (RET) funding in place of the current donations system.
“This is welcome, the current system works and it doesn’t need a new arrangement,” he remarked, but adding that ‘other reports are more concerning’.
He added that the betting firms ‘deserve credit for the millions of pounds they have invested in tackling problem gambling’ through RET funding, as well as an industry commitment to a further £100 million, indicating that the sector ‘really does take this issue seriously’.
Breaking down the reported outcomes of the review, the MP highlighted affordability checks as an issue of concern. Specifically, suggestions that instead of being designed to prevent customers losing ‘thousands’ the measures could be applied at a much lower margin – whilst also requiring the provision of private financial details – were underlined.
“Instead of protecting punters, this could push them to an increasingly predatory unregulated black-market, where the numbers of customers has swelled to the hundreds of thousands and the amount bet is now in the billions,” he remarked.
Concerns about affordability have been recurrent throughout the course of the Gambling Act review, repeatedly cited by stakeholders such as the Betting and Gaming Council (BGC) as a potential gift to black market operators, whilst figures in horse racing have made their worries clear regarding the financial blow the measures could deal to the sport.
On casinos, Brereton also criticised a proposal that would allow certain land-based casinos to lift the cap on electronic slots and compete with online operators for omitting around 70 of the UK’s 121 venues due to being ‘deemed too small’.
In the aftermath of the mass resignation of Ministers such as Chris Philp, the confirmation of Boris Johnson’s withdrawal from the premiership and subsequent leadership election, it has been made clear that no new legislation will be signed into law until a new PM is chosen.
However, Brereton noted that some are still calling for the publication of the White Paper, which Nigel Huddleston, DCMS Parliamentary Under-Secretary, has stated is still on track for release ‘in the coming weeks’.
“The government promised to protect punters and Level Up, neither of these suggestions match that ambition,” the MP asserted, referring to the affordability check and casino measures.
“If that is the case, then as with all other big decisions for government we should pause the White Paper until we have a new PM and a new cabinet. Important policies impacting the lives of millions cannot be rushed through haphazardly.
“The government has a choice in the coming weeks. Whatever twists and turns come in the storyline of Britain’s political life, this crucial issue affecting millions, must never become a sideshow. Betting and Gaming, its customers and all those who work in the industry deserve better.”
Conversely, the collapse of Boris Johnson’s government has also led to concerts that the Gambling Act review will be once again delayed, denying various industry stakeholders closure on a range of issues.
Earlier this week, GambleAware CEO Zoë Osmond stated ‘we sincerely hope the current political situation will not result in further delay’, adding that due to the cost-of-living crisis it is ‘vital’ that gambling-related harm is addressed as a public health issue.