Can we Expect the Cabinet Changes to have an Impact on Gambling Legislation?

Over the past few years gambling legislation has become a hotly debated topic within the UK government. In 2020, the UK banned the use of credit cards to deposit money on gambling websites to curb the debt that problem gamblers can find themselves getting into. The government promised that there were more reforms to come following protests and hundreds of complaints about betting companies getting around the ban on advertising by sponsoring teams and stadiums for major events. The latest routes have been for online casinos to sponsor bloggers and people like online streamers, which is another avenue that gambling legislation is likely to need to tackle. However, some arguments say the Government is much too slow in acting when it comes to this form of advertising and the rules around gambling sponsorship/promotion.

John Whittingdale held the post of Minister for Media and Data which included overseeing the gambling act review. There were mixed reactions when he took over as he had previously voted in favour of allowing Fixed Odds Betting Terminals (FOBT) in motorway service stations. However, before he’d achieved anything Whittingdale found himself with a lot more free time, as he was removed from his position in a cabinet shakeup orchestrated by Boris Johnson.

The changes to the cabinet have seen Chris Philp appointed as the new gambling minister and has been tasked with overseeing the review of the 2005 Gambling Act. With this surprise replacement, many campaigners are rightfully concerned about what this may mean for the reform.

What Does This Mean for Gambling Legislation?

While it’s a little too early to say, with Philp only taking over the office last week, the signs so far are fairly positive. Philp’s first act as the newly appointed gambling minister was to comment on the government’s independent review into the downfall of BetIndex. The review recommended a number of changes to both the UK Gambling Commission and the Financial Conduct Authority. One of the key conclusions of the review was that the UKGC should’ve acted quicker and better in response to challenges that were raised.

Philp stated “We have been clear that we must learn lessons to make sure a situation like this does not happen again. I’m encouraged to see the Gambling Commission and the FCA are taking concrete steps on an action plan on how they will better work together.” Philp then went on to say that he would ensure that findings from this review directly feed into the review of the Gambling Act in order to find ways to improve the regulation of the gambling industry in the UK.

What Are We Expecting To See?

Chris Philp is expected to take a harder approach to the overhaul of British gambling legislation than his predecessor. The new gambling minister was one of the key voices who campaigned for stricter regulation of fixed-odds betting terminals and as a result, the maximum stake limit was reduced from £100 to £2.

One of the biggest issues in the last few months has been around gambling companies and bookmakers sponsoring teams and stadiums, leading to logos scrolling around the side of the pitch and being emblazoned on key players’ shirts. This has long been a way to get around the ban on advertising gambling companies before the watershed and is something that has been hotly debated in recent months.

The Mirror suggested that a White Paper was due to be published in Winter 2021 that would move forward with a ban of gambling companies sponsoring team uniforms. However, with the recent cabinet reshuffle, this is now down to Chris Philp to finish so there may be a delay or some possible amendments before it is published. 

Are Ministers in Agreement?

While ministers are mostly in agreement about banning gambling logos from players’ shirts there has been an ongoing debate about how far the new legislation should stretch. Campaigners argue that without banning pitch-side sponsors or a blanket ban on bookmakers advertising on TV, the shirt ban would be pointless. 

While there are currently mixed opinions across the cabinet and the public, Chris Philp will likely take a hard line when reforming the gambling legislation as both he and the new Culture Secretary appear to be keen to see change. At this point, only time will tell, but hopefully, it will be a step in the right direction for campaigners.

What Does This Mean For The Future?

As online gaming and advertising has become more immersive (for example the rapid developments in live casino streaming technology over the past decade) some have argued the Government has not done enough to keep up, which is something that will probably want to avoid in the future. The problem is that often we only know that regulations and/or legislation is needed once something is popular and we start to see issues arise; which can make it hard for the people who make regulations to keep up. 

That said, as we get to grips more with technology and understand the need for things like the Gambling Act review to keep up; we’re likely to see a much faster introduction of regulations. It may even be that super strict regulations are introduced to start with and these are eased as we see things working as they should be. 

The cabinet changes are unlikely to mean that there will be no legislation and it is very unlikely that legislation will stay as it is without changes. Instead, we may just see all of this adjust as technology changes and the government attempts to keep up with this in terms of regulations – doing their best to ensure a safe and fair gambling environment for all those that choose to partake. 

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