The news that UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson will resign puts the long-awaited white paper on Gambling Act reform in limbo, with officials promising yet again that it will be released “in the coming weeks”.
The member of parliament who was until Thursday (July 7) the minister for gambling issues, Chris Philp, said he has delivered the white paper to 10 Downing Street, the office of the British Prime Minister.
Philp was among 50 members of parliament quitting Johnson’s government in the 48 hours before he announced his plans to resign at midday on Thursday, following what members of his own party called a series of deceptions.
The government is in “chaos, paralysis and a total collapse”, “with huge swathes of vacant ministerial posts and parliamentary business on hold”, claimed one member of the opposition Labour party, who was questioning ministers about gambling issues on Thursday in parliament.
In his resignation letter, Philp said the document contained “strong measures to protect people from the ravages of gambling addiction” and he urged the government to adopt it “in full and undiluted”.
If the white paper is not delivered before parliamentary summer recess starts on July 21, that probably pushes it to the autumn, although that has not been confirmed by anyone in government.
Philp's departure left remaining ministers in the Department for Digital, Media, Culture & Sport (DCMS) fielding questions in parliament on Thursday morning on topics ranging from the BBC to short-term holiday rentals, as well as gambling, racing and society lotteries.
DCMS under-secretary of state Nigel Huddleston deflected most questions about the white paper, including Conservative member Laurence Robertson’s query about whether the Gambling Commission or the government would be deciding affordability standards.
Huddleston said answers would be delivered “in due course”.
Labour MP Lucy Powell was urged to stick on topic when she decried the “chaos” in government before addressing the white paper.
When she asked whether proposals to require a mandatory gambling levy have been dropped, Huddleston simply replied “no”.
Labour’s John Spellar said he hoped the government would balance the interests of those who “bet very responsibly” with “the very vocal lobbying” of what he called “prohibitionists”.
Huddleston responded that the document was “comprehensive”.
Philp had telegraphed that the white paper will likely address what the Gambling Commission calls a “single customer view”, that is, efforts to extend player protection across multiple websites, and more use of data for player protection.
At least some guidance to the future was provided on Wednesday at a CMS law firm conference on gambling, at which Tim Miller, the Gambling Commission’s executive director for research and statistics, spoke on topics including changes in policy on consultations.
The Gambling Commission will be seeking input on issues including how it sets penalties for regulatory violations, to solicit ways to help them incentivise compliance, and to ensure they are transparent, Miller said.
The commission will also seek to offer consultations only during two periods a year, giving licensees and their representatives more time to plan when to be ready to supply evidence, he said.
The regulator is preparing its participation and prevalence survey, which it expects will be surveying 20,000 people when it is fully implemented, Miller said.
The commission is also seeking to improve cooperation with regulators from other jurisdictions to help combat the gambling black market, he said.