By Jon Bryan | Expected reading time 4 mins

The Prime Minister’s departure leaves us wondering what is happening with the government’s review of gambling. Jon Bryan, writing for SlotsHawk.com looks at what is going on.

Just a few days before Boris Johnson’s government began to fall apart, various snippets began appearing in the media about what we might expect from the Gambling Review.

‘Alarm bells should be ringing for punters’, said a headline in The Racing Post, as we were told that affordability checks were going to be included in the government’s White Paper.

‘New curbs for online gambling’ said The Times, as they reported that the maximum stake for online casinos would be between £2 and £5, and that the speed of online gambling games would be slowed down under new proposals.

‘Ministers plot to ban punters from “free bets”’, said a headline in The Sun, with the story detailing how ‘Offers, free bets, and free spins’ were to be made illegal by the government in the new legislation that they were planning.

This drip feeding gave the impression that we were close to hearing the outcomes from the government consultation and their review of gambling legislation. But things changed as the machinery of government ground to a halt and Johnson’s premiership came under more and more scrutiny.

Having been told a few months ago by Chris Philp (the then Minister with responsibility for gambling) that the outcome of the government’s gambling review was ‘very, very imminent’ , it really did feel like we would be hearing something in the summer, especially with all of the leaks appearing in the media. Now that everything is still uncertain and the leadership of the country is up for grabs, all bets are off about when we might see the Gambling White Paper. That doesn’t help those of us who are growing a little impatient with all the delays, so where do things stand now?

UNCERTAINTY BREEDS UNCERTAINTY

Arguably, for individual punters, it is not vital to know what is going to happen, and what the timetable is likely to be for that change. But for companies that need to act within current gambling regulation in Britain, it’s important that they understand what the hell is going on. If what we are hearing is right, there will be increased restrictions on gambling, which are unlikely to be good for anyone. For the gambling industry and associated organisations that need to plan, the uncertainty of not knowing the detail and the timing is extremely unhelpful. The ability to prepare for the short, medium and long term is something that companies need to be able to do with some confidence. When you are unsure about the context in which you are going to operate, it makes planning for the future very difficult.

The various stories about gambling sponsorship and Premier League football shows how uncertainty in government can lead to uncertainty elsewhere. In a matter of days, the story about what was going to happen continually changed. First, the BBC reported in May that ‘Gambling sponsor shirt ban included in draft government white paper’. Then, in June, the story had completely reversed as The Times said that Premier League clubs were going to ‘escape sponsor ban’. By the time we got to July, the story was that the Premier League were going to vote on whether to implement a ‘voluntary ban on gambling sponsorship’, that vote now delayed because of the resignation of the Gambling Minister, Chris Philp.

What is written on team shirts may not be top priority for football fans, but the inability to plan for the future is hardly ideal, which perhaps influenced Crystal Palace in recent decisions about shirt sponsorship.

THE REVIEW IS ‘WITH NO 10’

The best clue to finding out where we are with the gambling review came with the series of ministerial departures which lead to the downfall of Boris Johnson. This gave us a clearer indication of where we were in the process. As he left his post as a Government Minister with responsibility for gambling, Chris Philp wrote in his resignation letter:

‘The Gambling Review is with No 10 at the moment for final approval…I strongly urge you to deliver the review in full and undiluted.’

Of course, this just increased speculation about what was in it, and concerns from anti-gambling groups that those in Downing Street were trying to change recommendations. While news of Chris Philp’s resignation was still brand new information and we were hearing that Boris Johnson would be stepping down, MPs pressed the government in Parliament about what would be in the White Paper and when we would see it.

‘It remains a priority for the Department’ we were told by Minister Nigel Huddleston in response to a number of questions asking where the gambling review was, ‘and we will publish a White Paper setting out conclusions and a vision for the sector in the coming weeks’.

When further questioned by another MP, the response did not give much more away:

‘I ask him to be slightly patient, because we will be responding to the review in due course’.

AT AN IMPASSE?

As the review is still with the government, it means that nothing has yet been finalised. Even when the White Paper is released, it isn’t the end of the discussion – the public can still have a say. Many people have already contributed by making a submission to the government’s consultation, but there is still plenty to talk about, and it’s not too late to make your views known. I have recently observed a few exchanges on social media where some argue that you should have had your say at the time of the consultation. While that’s true, (and for those interested, I did,) the debate has moved on. Just because you didn’t contribute at the time, it doesn’t mean that your voice should now be ignored. It’s also not in the spirit of parliamentary democracy and government scrutiny if you end the debate now the consultation has closed. Shutting down discussion never really solves anything.

There are serious concerns about what the review might bring, particularly in the area of online gambling. That discussion needs to continue, especially as the nature of the technology means that we are learning more all the time. Why betting on the internet attracts so much attention – largely undeserved – will be something I will return to in a future article.

Jon Bryan is a Gambling Writer and Poker Player.
Follow him on Twitter: @JonBryanPoker

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