The world has been a turbulent place for the last few years, but there are some things that have managed to remain consistent in the face of it all. One such thing is the delay of the UK Gambling White Paper. The paper has received several delays since the review took place back in 2020. With the UK entering yet another period of political uncertainty, it looks as though the review and its findings have been kicked down the road yet again.
A Whirlwind of Change in British Politics
In March, I wrote a piece looking at what we could expect from the Gaming Act White paper. I broke down areas such as advertising, the protection of children, and what the future of gambling would look like in the UK.
Since then, the British Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, has, not so graciously, stepped down from his post and the race for a new leader has begun. The race has now come down to two candidates - Boris’s former Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rishi Sunak, and Liz Truss, the Minister for Women and Equalities.
At least if you believe the bookmakers and polling, the race is all but over, with Truss holding a sizeable lead among Tory members over Sunak. That said, stranger things have happened, and Sunak could still pull off a big surprise. As such, for the sake of argument, I’m going to take a look at the way both potential PMs are likely to deal with the White Paper.
Freedom is the Name of the Game for Liz Truss
The delay in the release of the White Paper was all but confirmed in July with the resignation of the Gambling Minister, Chris Philp. This now means that a new Gambling Minister is likely going to want to step in to delay the paper even further. It has all but been confirmed that the new Minister is likely to want to take a look at it before it is published.
Chris Philp has expressed his backing for Liz Truss, which could give us some sign of the way the White Paper is likely to be released. A quick glance at Truss’s voting record shows that she has consistently voted against further regulation of the Gambling Industry. Her political stance tends to lean more toward libertarian values. It is going to be interesting to see how this lends itself to the gambling policy.
Local Interest for Rishi Sunak
Rishi Sunak’s interests in the White Paper could be even more interesting. Earlier in the year, Sunak voiced his concerns about the impact that the Gambling Act Review could have on the horseracing industry.
This shouldn’t come as a huge surprise given that Sunak’s constituency in the UK is home to the Catterick Racecourse. Sunak is likely to want to protect his best interests, and will no doubt want to avoid putting himself in the line of fire in his own seat.
Sunak doubled down on these concerns when he wrote a letter to Nadine Dorries back in March. This expressed concerns that the gambling review and further legislation on the horse-racing industry could have a big financial impact. Given that Sunak’s policies are all financially focused, this could be a sign of the way he will tackle gambling reform if he takes power.
Reaction from the Premier League
The Premier League recently delayed a voluntary move to ban gambling sponsorships on the front of their shirts. The voluntary move looked set to be taken as the division and the FA anticipated stricter regulations from the Government. This decision gives an indication of the way things could be going.
For the Premier League to take such a decision feels very significant. There has been mounting pressure on the division and from clubs involved for some time to limit gambling sponsorship. The decision to remove sponsorship on shirts was seen by some as a gesture from the teams in a hope that they wouldn’t be hit harder by further regulations.
While the ban has not been ruled out, the decision to delay it does suggest to me that they believe the incoming PM could go much lighter on gambling regulations. This decision was always going to receive some backlash from Anti-Gambling campaigners and large parts of the press. To go ahead with it suggests that they are confident that things will fall in their favor.
Lighter Regulations Incoming
It is tough to predict exactly how the result of the Conservative leadership race will impact the Gambling Act Review. Given the records of both candidates and the values that they put across, a logical bet would be that they will go softer on gambling regulations in the UK and may choose to ignore a lot of recommendations put forward. Of course, I’m well aware of both candidates’ penchant for telling the occasional lie, and both could u-turn at the drop of a hat.
Sunak seems focused on the economic impact that over-regulation of the industry would have. While Truss likes to champion the idea of freedom and may not want to regulate the market so tightly.
In the grander scheme of British politics, Gambling regulation may seem too significant. However, given the size of the industry in the country, the potential jobs it provides and the money generated from outside, it is certainly not something to be ignored. Truss and Sunak will both be well aware of this.
There is also plenty of support for the industry from within the party, with Jack Brereton, the MP for Stoke-on-Trent South asking the government not to rush the White Papers and to consider regulation carefully. Stoke-on-Trent is an industrial, working-class town in the Midlands that is home to Bet365, a big job provider in the area.
Some Issues Can’t Be Ignored
That said, both parties are still likely to address some of the issues hitting the industry and the public as a whole. While they are both likely to be anti-regulation, they are both going to recognize a demand from the public for some sort of control. Some advertising limits are likely to be put in place, and there will probably be caps on players’ spending, though, these are not likely to be as strict as they may have been under Johnson.
Whatever happens, change is coming in the gambling industry, but the resignation of Boris Johnson has raised a lot of questions. The arrival of a new, pro-industry leader is likely to ruffle some feathers and whatever move they make will no doubt cause some controversy.
This article delivers the thoughts and opinions of the author, and it doesn't represent the stance of GoodLuckMate.