UK Gambling Minister Discusses Delayed Review

December 8, 2022
The UK minister in charge of gambling policy has said he is keen to publish the long-awaited Gambling Act review white paper “in the coming weeks”, but failed to provide any clear timeline for its release.


The UK minister in charge of gambling policy has said he is keen to publish the long-awaited Gambling Act review white paper “in the coming weeks”, but failed to provide any clear timeline for its release.

Paul ScullyMP, parliamentary under secretary of state at the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), made the remarks during UK-based charity GambleAware’s tenth annual conference on Wednesday (December 7).

“Whatever the language is in the review, there will be plenty of time to engage with its contents through consultations and other ways. Plenty of time to have many more conversations regarding how we will bring its measures into effect,” Scully said, referencing the long political process that stretches beyond the white paper’s publication.

He praised a wide range of actions taken by the industry over the past few years, such as banning credit card gambling and making online slots safer by design, adding that the review is an opportunity to “build on those changes and do more”.

Despite claiming the review will be “out of the door soon”, a promise many at the conference have heard several times before, the latest minister in charge of gambling policy stressed that the government wants to “make sure we have the right protections in place” to cover its “challenging and broad brief”.

“The commitment we made is to make sure it is fit for the digital age. DCMS looks at it through a variety of lenses, including harm as a public health issue which is a serious consideration. However, we must also make sure regulation is fair and proportionate,” Scully said.

Acknowledging that “like alcohol, gambling carries a risk”, Scully believes communicating the risks of gambling harm is essential.

“We are looking at this in the review. Having a greater public awareness of the harms and sources of support is vital,” Scully said.

Alex Davies-Jones MP, DCMS shadow minister responsible for gambling, gave an insight into the UK’s second largest political party’s view towards gambling policy.

She said the Labour Party has concerns about the “general delay and relaxed attitude of the government towards bringing the white paper forward”, adding that the “cost of delay is colossal and that “inaction is impacting certain communities more than most”.

“The landscape has changed significantly since 2005, it is no longer fit for purpose. I hope when the white paper is published, prevention is at the heart. Without legislation in place, I fear we will see very little change,” Davies-Jones said.

Professor Chris Whitty, the chief medical officer for England who recently oversaw the country’s COVID-19 policy, told the conference the necessary evidence base surrounding gambling harm is “much weaker” than other public health areas, meaning there may need to be a change in the current approach to addressing harm.

“It is a hidden problem and this is partly because of stigma and a lack of external factors displayed by those affected. Additionally, it is most concentrated among those who can least afford it,” Whitty said.

England’s chief medical officer highlighted what he says is a negative multiplier effect where areas suffering the most from COVID deaths, alcohol harm, and a lack of money to pay for heating are loosely mapped with areas affected the most from gambling harm.

“These families are getting hit with a whole series of issues. Gambling harm is not just a problem in isolation. This is a problem highly concentrated among those that can least stand them,” Whitty said.

To address these issues and ensure a successful public health approach, Whitty wants to focus on areas and communities that are most affected as opposed to evenly distributing resources around the country to tackle harm.

Baroness Kate Lampard, chair of GambleAware and a member of the House of Lords, similarly said it is “vital” that a public health approach is implemented to tackle gambling harms.

Lampard explained that GambleAware believes a successful public health approach requires an effective partnership between the statutory sector, which provides care for service users and is funded by the government, and the voluntary, independent or civic sectors.

“A society safe from gambling harms is critical,” Lampard said, adding that a continued delay to the white paper is “causing uncertainty” and that the longer the status quo remains, the longer people will continue to experience gambling harm.

“The public health approach is designed to reduce disparities and to get to people before they experience harm as well as provide targeted help for those already affected,” Lampard said.

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