The Long Hello, After Months Of Dither And Delay White Paper To Be Published Today
After months, if not years, of dither and delay the UK government is finally set to deliver reform to the world’s biggest regulated gambling industry.
The long-awaited White Paper on gambling reform is to be published today, it has been confirmed.
Culture Secretary Lucy Frazer, the latest in a long, and seemingly revolving door of Conservative government ministers responsible for the £11 billion-a-year UK gambling industry, will outline the reform agenda in Parliament later this afternoon (April 27).
Ms. Frazer is the fourth Minister for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport since plans to update Britain’s creaking 2005 Gambling Act–and make it fit-for-purpose in the digital age of the ubiquitous smart phone–were first unveiled in December 2020, during the controversial premiership of Boris Johnson.
Among the headline measures that will be unveiled–government sources have confirmed–are mandatory checks of punters who lose more than £1,000 a day, or £2,000 in 90-days.
Operators across the gambling industry spectrum will be subject to a mandatory one percent levy.
This is will raise an estimated £100 million a year, which will be spent on gambling addiction programmes.
It is also believed that a limit of £2-a-bet on digital slots will be imposed on gamblers who are under 25-years-old; while limits of between £2 to £15–in line with current caps on gaming machines in high street bookies–will be imposed on older punters.
Draconian Reform Averted
Much pro-active reform by progressive operators in UK gambling and iGaming has already been undertaken, draining fears of draconian reform.
For example, a number of gambling firms, among them heavy-hitters Flutter, which owns Paddy Power, SkyBet and Betfair, imposed £10 limits on slot machines last year.
And only last week the English Premier League (EPL) decided to ban football teams from accepting front-of-shirt advertising from gambling companies by the end of the 2025-26 season.
Some anti-gambling campaigners, among them Tory backbench stalwart and former party leader Sir Iain Duncan Smith, a Vice-chair of the All-party Parliamentary Group on Gambling Related Harm, are already shouting that the White Paper is, effectively, “too little, too late.”
“[We need to] make sure we hold the government’s feet to the fire to ensure these measures are implemented swiftly,” said Duncan Smith.
In this he seemed a little at odds with the parliamentary group’s Chair, Carolyn Harris, Labour MP for Swansea East, who has conceded: “The gambling industry creates jobs and pays money into the economy. No one wants to see it annihilated.
“But it needs to be reshaped, so it will be more accountable and have less obscene profits.”
Anti-gaming activists say that an average of 500 people are driven to suicide each year because of gambling addiction; and that with the advent of the digital age, smart phones have become the equivalent of mobile Las Vegas casinos.
Undoubtedly, iGaming has boomed in the wake of the Covid19 pandemic.
But across the industry, issues of Responsible Gaming and Compliance have never been bigger and, increasingly, embedded into the operating DNA of iGaming sites.
The long-awaited gambling White Paper has, to date, seen off five gambling ministers and four culture secretaries. Because of Covid19 and Tory government turmoil, its release has been delayed four times.
Current Culture Secretary Lucy Frazer has said the impending reforms “will redress the power imbalance between punters and operators”.
What is certain is that the wider UK gambling industry is in strong favour of regulatory reform, update and modernisation.
With one important proviso, as summarised by Michael Dugher, Chief Executive of the industry-representative Betting and Gaming Council:
“We want to see balanced, proportionate and effective reforms, whilst not spoiling the enjoyment of the overwhelming majority who bet perfectly safely and responsibly.
“Changes should also help to protect jobs and the economic contribution made by the world-leading UK regulated industry”.
As most stakeholders agree, any excessive crackdown on the UK’s regulated market will only have the deeply negative effect of driving punters into the clutches of the demi-monde of the illicit market.
On all indications to date this misstep seems to have been avoided.
This is a breaking story.
iGamingFuture will keep readers fully updated with reaction and headlines throughout the day.
Watch this space.