Gambling whitepaper only the start of reform process says MP

27th January 2023 8:21 am GMT
Paul Scully MP

Gambling Minister Paul Scully has told industry stakeholders that the much-anticipated Government whitepaper on gambling reform in the UK is only the first step towards a world leading gambling policy.

Speaking at the annual meeting of Britain’s Betting and Gaming Council on Thursday (Jan. 26), Scully noted that the millions of customers who engage with gambling businesses every month are for the most part choosing to spend their money on a leisure product they enjoy, with the majority suffering no ill effect.  

He commended ongoing industry action to address the risks associated with gambling but warned that there are still too many failings in protecting vulnerable players.

“Some customers continue to slip through protections and are allowed or even encouraged to spend too much.  Some go on to suffer real and serious harm, including taking their own life in extreme cases,” he said, explaining that the review of the Gambling Act is “a real opportunity to make sure we have the balance right”.

“I know you’ve all been engaged since the Call for Evidence launched and are patiently - or impatiently - awaiting the white paper,” Scully told industry stakeholders. “I also recognise regulatory certainty is important for your businesses.  We do want to have the white paper out in the next few weeks to give you that solid foundation, and so we can get on with implementing reforms.

“I want to be clear though, that the white paper is not the final word on gambling reform. It will be followed by consultations led by both DCMS and the Gambling Commission. I want the industry to stay engaged as policies are refined, finalised and implemented.”

On the expected inclusion of affordability checks in the review, Scully said “it is not the role of government or the gambling commission to tell people how much of their salary they are allowed to spend on gambling”.

“I’m not going to preempt the details of the white paper, but there are a few things I can stay at this stage. The first is that ‘affordability checks’ is the wrong title for the protections we’re envisaging. That word suggests that the government or Gambling Commission are going to set rules on how much people can ‘afford’ to gamble.

“A one size fits all approach is not the intention here,” Scully explained. “It may be more accurate to call them ‘financial risk’ checks - checking that a higher than usual level of spend is not itself an indicator of harm.

“I’ve already said that the white paper will be followed by consultations on details. When it comes to financial risk checks, the coming months will provide the opportunity to nail down and test the logistics for frictionless checks, to design the necessary data safeguards, and to establish the best possible framework for identifying and acting on financial risk. I strongly encourage you all to remain involved in the discussion, and responsive to the issues,” Scully added.

“We want to make common sense changes to update the rules, preserving safeguards that do protect against gambling harm, but replacing unnecessarily restrictive controls with ones which make things better for customers and businesses. I’ll be meeting again with some of you from the land-based sector in the coming weeks to talk about these issues.”

“As the Gambling Commission CEO said at his recent briefing for operator chief executives - the relationship between the industry and those charged with regulating it does not need to be antagonistic,” Scully concluded. “Indeed, the BGC and its members have been very helpful throughout the review in providing data and information as requested. I hope that the spirit of positive engagement can continue after the white paper.”

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