And Then There Were 15, Shuffling The Pack Labour Appoints Lisa Nandy New Gambling Overlord


It may have been a decisive, stonking, victory for Britain’s Labour Party but for the nation’s unsettled betting industry, victim of stop-start putative reform, the UK parliamentary elections has brought only further uncertainty, and yet another change of regulatory leadership.

Lisa Nandy has been appointed as the new Secretary of Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) — the 15th minister to head the department with overall responsibility for gambling in 14-years.

Nandy, a no-nonsense Mancunian, and M.P. for Wigan in the North West of England, was only given the post after Labour’s Shadow Culture Secretary, Thangam Debbonaire, unexpectedly lost her Bristol constituency to the Green Party in last Thursday’s (July 4) General Election.

After so much churn, the gambling industry across-the-board is hoping, if not praying, that Nandy stays in post long enough to bring conclusive reform to UK betting.

Everything about the new British Prime Minister Sir Keir Starmer suggests a man of Cromwellian cut and moral certainty, if not stricture — a man with a natural aversion to gambling.

But the truth is: No-one knows what the Labour party plans for the future of an industry that grossed over £15 billion last year (US$19.21bn), delivered £3.39 billion in tax (US$4.34bn) and employs some 100,000 people.

Whatever one’s ethics and perspective, it’s indubitably a goose that lays golden eggs.

And only a fool kills the Golden Goose.

Fudge

It’s now been three-and-a-half years since the Conservative administration of then-prime minister Boris Johnson initiated a long-overdue review of Britain’s 2005 Gambling Act, with the intention of making it fit-for-purpose for the new Digital Age.

Last April the Tories published their highly-awaited White Paper.

It was, quite frankly, a massive anti-climax; a damp squib, a fudge by any other name, calling for yet more delay and consultations between stakeholders.

Advertising limitations, affordability checks, new regulations for land-based casinos, mandatory levies to finance compliance and tackle problem gambling; all have yet to be agreed and passed into law.

High-level sources consulted by iGamingFuture assured this reporter that the new Labour government is in “broad consensus” with the general direction of gambling reform as “signalled” by the outgoing Conservative administration.

“Labour is making some fairly positive noises about this,” said one source.

But, tapping the zeitgeist, it’s also incontrovertible that in many quarters gambling has been tarnished as the new tobacco.

Enemies

And, despite the massive benefit to state coffers in these straightened times, the betting industry has some powerful enemies.

One of them, Sir Iain Duncan Smith, now ex-M.P. for Chingford, an outspoken anti-gaming activist, lost his parliamentary seat in the Tory electoral bloodbath last Thursday.

But it would appear that the surest way to survival and future prosperity be self-regulation: Getting ahead of one’s critics.

With this in mind, all eyes are now on the outcome of the regulatory UK Gambling Commission’s six-month pilot project starting next month, August, which will initiate affordability checks on customer spend of £500 and over per month; reducing to a spend of £150-a-month from February next year.

Will this greater protection for potentially more vulnerable gamblers–together with tougher advertising laws and rigorous enforcement to protect the young–be enough to head-off the industry’s opponents?

The decision lies with Lisa Nandi.

But only if she sits at the top table long enough to play her hand.

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