As the big gaming hunters of the betting world roamed the exhibition floor at the recent ICE London 2022 in search of their next kill there was plenty of talk, but no sighting, of the Lesser Spotted Gambling White Paper Tiger.
This rare and delightful creature, born of the Official Review of the UK’s 2005 Gambling Act, has reportedly been seen on several occasions over the last year.
But none of the purported sightings have been substantiated.
And leading movers and Shikars now concur that the White Paper Tiger has retreated back into the Whitehall jungle, where it has been avoiding capture for some time.
Carolyn Harris, MP, leader of a feared and self-ordained tribe of anti-gambling head-hunters who call themselves the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Gambling-Related Harm, insists that the White Paper Tiger be “finalised”, a euphemism, one fears, for the gambling species to be “exterminated, with extreme prejudice”.
Failing this, Harris asserts that the big gaming beast, when it finally breaks cover, must be captured and caged behind high paywalls that will protect vulnerable punters from being eaten alive.
“The case for a centralised and independent affordability assessment is overwhelming,” said the Labour representative for Swansea East, in her latest utterance.
“Putting a limit of £100 a month on net deposits is a sensible, proportionate and, more importantly, evidence-based position, especially when we consider that the average level of disposable income in Britain is £450 a month, and that 73 per cent of slot players and 85 per cent of non-slot players lose £50 or less a month.”
UK government officials, meantime, remain unsure of who exactly is leading the hunt for the Lesser Spotted Gambling White Paper Tiger.
Nigel Huddleston, a Parliamentary Under-Secretary at the Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, previously oversaw the gambling game.
This responsibility has now passed to his department colleague Chris Philp, Conservative Member for Croydon South and currently Under-Secretary for Tech and the Digital Economy.
Hunter or Farmer?
Huddleston, for his part, continues to assure stakeholders that the government is on the very cusp of parading the White Paper Tiger once they’ve completed its capture.
“I cannot pre-announce what will be published,” he recently told weary sceptics, before hurriedly adding, “but we are in the process of finalising it.”
Once again that fearful, promissory threat of “finalising” put to the fore.
It’s an admission that’s of particular concern to horse racing, the so-called “Sport of Kings” (and Queens). For we all know how nervous horses become in the presence of tigers, White Paper or otherwise.
“[I know] the main area of concern from the horse racing industry is the affordability checks,” conceded Huddleston.
“[While] these are important, they must also be proportionate, and we are carefully considering the impact of all our proposals.”
“We have also been clear for a number of years that, should the existing system of taxation and voluntary contributions fail to deliver what was needed, we would look at a number of options for reform, including a statutory levy, and we will set out our conclusions in the white paper,” he reiterated.
Meantime, back on the teeming savannah of ICE London 2022, Big Game hunter David Williams, Head of Publications of the once-mighty Rank Group, advised, when pressed about the future of gambling: “Do not over-index the loudest voices, or over-index their influence.
“The majority of legislators are moderate and are OK with regulated gambling.
“You have to ask yourself: Are you a hunter? Or are you a farmer?”
It’s a question that will surely be quickened by the roar, or whimper, of the Lesser-Spotted White Paper Tiger when it finally breaks cover from the Whitehall jungle.