Will the UK General Election Delay Reform of the Gambling Industry?

The past five years have seen moves to reform the UK gambling industry. It’s been a bumpy road to reform but how will the announcement of a General Election on July 4 affect planned changes?

It is accepted that there needs to be reform of the current gambling legislation. The industry has seen tremendous change since the last Gambling Act was passed 19 years ago. In 2019 when he was Prime Minister, Boris Johnson said that legislation was for the analogue industry not the digital one that we now have.

Progress has been extremely slow on this matter. The continual problems in Downing Street and the COVID-19 pandemic haven’t helped of course. Reforming the gambling industry has often taken a back seat and may well do so again after the July 4 General Election.

There had been some progress made in the past year though. After several delays, a White Paper on gambling reform was finally published in 2023. It didn’t bring about any immediate legislation as another consultation period followed.

This year has seen the first concrete signs of what lies ahead. It’s been announced that in September of this year that new maximum stake limits for online slot games will be introduced.

The maximum stake for those aged between 18 and 24 will be £2 per spin and £5 for those 25 and over. With a General Election being announced though, the big question is whether this planned change will go ahead in September.

There have also been announcements made regarding land-based casinos. The sector has had a tough time due to the closures that took place during the pandemic and the growth of online betting.

Planned changes will see casinos have up to 80 slot machines and debit cards will be able to be used. It’ll also be possible for new UK casino slot sites to provide sports betting facilities to their customers as is seen in the USA. Those are plans that have been welcomed by the sector but again the question is will they take place or be delayed?

There are hours of programmes being broadcasted about the General Election. The subject of gambling reform seems to be a subject that doesn’t receive any coverage. That’s despite the campaigning of those who feel the UK gambling industry needs reforming to deal with the dangers of gambling harm that currently exist.

Whoever wins the July 4 General Election will have a busy time ahead of them. Plenty of promises to be fulfilled and the odds are that reforming the UK gambling won’t be at the top of their to-do list.

Imogen Moss works as a solicitor for Poppleston Allen who are a licensing law firm. Speaking about the situation, she said that the gambling industry will be asking whether the contents of the White Paper will be “implemented as planned or confined to the legislative scrapheap?”

Her view is however that “a delay seems most likely.” The work of the Department of Culture, Media and Sport is unlikely to begin work on gambling reform until “later into the summer now, at the earliest’. That’s even more likely to happen seeing that Parliament will be on its summer recess soon after the General Election.

It’s not just the government who has responsibility in this area. The UK Gambling Commission (UKGC) have been hard at work with consultations about the contents of the White Paper. They are looking at areas such as financial vulnerability, remote game design and Personal Management License requirements with changes due to begin in August.

If Labour are the winners of the General Election, there may be changes to what has been included in the White Paper and recent announcements. Labour haven’t shown too much opposition to its contents but will want to stamp their own mark on the subject.

There has already been talk of the £2 maximum stake limit imposed on all players and not just those aged between 18 and 24.

Even if the Conservatives were to stay in power, there’d be a new minister for gambling. The current holder of that position (there’s been a few in recent years) was Stuart Andrew when the election was called. He’s since announced his resignation from the post.

Stephanie Peacock has been the shadow minister and may be in that role if Labour win the election. Having been a speaker at the recent Betting & Gaming Council AGM, she would at least not be a total newcomer to the subject. Then again, Sir Keir Starmer might choose to reshuffle his cabinet, just another part of the current uncertainty.

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