The Big Fade, White Paper Lands With A Flutter
In the end the White Paper hit with something of an anti-climax, perhaps representative of the measured, collegiate, head-boy style of Number 10’s current incumbent.
After months, if not years, of dither and delay, reasonable controls–and promises of yet more consultations–trumped big moves.
Designed to update the country’s outdated 2005 Gambling Act and make our £11.5 billion-a-year business fit-for-purpose in the digital age, the government review finally saw the light of day yesterday (April 17), when it was unveiled by Culture Secretary Lucy Frazer, the latest incumbent to sit in the revolving gambling hot seat.
It had the finger-prints of Deputy Prime Minister Oliver Dowden all over it.
Dowden was Minister of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport when the review was first launched in December, 2020, back in the heady days of Boris Johnson’s madcap premiership.
That fact that Dowden, a soulmate of current PM Rishi Sunak, is universally known as ‘Olive’ behind closed Westminster doors is besides the point.
A cynic–and there are many in this betting business of ours–may argue that the many millions allegedly spent by the gaming industry on wining and dining, and lobbying, Britain’s MPs to go easy on ‘The Big Easy’, seems to have paid off.
There’s been a pretty underwhelming, if not non-existent, response from most quarters of the gambling and wider iGaming community to the impending government legislation.
In large part, I fancy, because the gambling industry and its cohorts woke up and smelt the coffee some time ago, knowing it’s always better to drive progressive change than have hard, ‘unwelcome’ change rammed down one’s throat.
Accordingly, the already most regulated gambling industry in the world has, inexorably, been moving in the direction of Compliance and Responsible Gambling at speed.
It’s accepted big fines, such as the £19 million sanction last month against storied William Hill, imposed by the UK regulatory Gambling Commission, with good grace, profound apologies and firm promises to do much better in the future.
And heavy-hitters–like Irish-origin Omnichannel Flutter–have, for example, pre-empted legislation by already dampening the excesses of slots mania by imposing a £10 stake limit last year.
Likewise, the EPL, whose many lesser and mid-ranking clubs depend on gambling sponsorship, has moved swiftly to emasculate the contentious lure of betting by banning front-of-shirt sponsorship by gaming operators by the end of the 2025-2026 season.
Correspondingly, the government’s imposition of mandatory checks on punters who lose more than £1,000 a day, or £2,000 in 90-days is welcomed as a serious safeguarding and AML measure.
So too is the one percent gaming levy on operators, which will raise an estimated £100 million a year to fund gambling addiction programmes.
Under government ordenance, perhaps the NHS will no longer grandstand–effectively cutting its nose to spite its face–by refusing to accept gambling money on ‘moral grounds’.
It’s time for all parties, especially naysayers, to wake up.
Gambling kills less people than alcohol, drugs and smoking.
It may not be the world’s oldest past-time, but it runs a close second.
The gambling industry employs around 100,000 people in the UK and pays some £4.5 billion a year in tax.
In these troubled times such figures are too vital to crush.
And even its enemies concede: “No one wants to see it annihilated.”