Liz Truss, the UK’s fourth prime minister in six years, has made her keen right-wing supporter Michelle Donelan the new overlord of British gambling.
How long Donelan, Conservative MP for Chippenham (Wiltshire), will stay as Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) remains unclear.
At least–with the weekend fast approaching–she’s a sure bet to warm her new government seat a little longer than in her previous ministerial manifestation as Education Minister. That number was a ticket that was valid for all of two days between July 5-7 earlier this year.
If she stays long enough to make a meaningful contribution to the evolution of betting, Donelan is expected to lay down the hardline according to Truss — although the DCMS, like the leadership of the Tory party itself, previously featuring David Cameron, Teresa May and Boris Johnson, has become something of a revolving chair, if not a rickety deck chair.
Extrapolating her previous parliamentary posture, Donelan has a history of articulating fiercely anti-gambling sentiments.
While, quite rightly, backing stake limits for fixed odds betting terminals she has also, more controversially, demanded draconian controls on sportsbook advertising.
An MP since 2015, Donelan replaces über Johnson loyalist Nadine Dorries at the DCMS.
Dorries, who lasted almost a full-year as Culture Secretary, retreats to the parliamentary backbenches, to lick her wounds — and no doubt plot the return of her fallen leader.
Donelan now leads the government’s hugely anticipated Review of the 2005 Gambling Act.
Word on the street is that finally, after all the political hubris, hiatus and hustling for power, widescale gambling reform will be announced “within weeks”.
Michael Dugher, Chief Executive of the gambling industry’s representative Betting and Gaming Council, warmly congratulated Donelan on the assumption of her leading role.
But he also, pointedly, reminded the new minister of the massive contribution the gambling industry makes to the national coffers: employing nearly 120,000 people, paying £4.5 billion (US$5.18bn) in taxes and contributing another £7.7 billion (US$8.86bn) to the wider economy, in so-called Gross Value Added.
“We have been working extremely closely with the DCMS over many years to help the government find the right balance in the Gambling Review, so that we continue to drive big changes and higher standards on safer gambling to better protect the most vulnerable,” stressed Dugher.
But, he added: “At the same time [we must ensure] that the millions of people who enjoy an occasional flutter perfectly safely and responsibly have the freedom to do so.”
Yet–amid the vortex of the UK’s worsening economic crisis, and with Donelan also responsible for the pressing issue of BBC reform and possible privatisation of Channel 4 television–many gambling industry watchers expect only more delay in British betting reform.
With Donelan holding the unenviable record of being the shortest serving minister in parliamentary history, one can only hope that, once more, it’s not a case of “blink and then she was gone”.
Image provided by the MPs and Lords Official Portrait section of the UK Government website. License details for the image can be found here: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/