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Two Tory grandees have drawn swords and are preparing to face-off over the long-awaited gambling White Paper.
Thanks to a last minute intervention by the Right Hon. Jacob Rees-Mogg, currently Minister for Brexit Opportunities and Government Efficiency, reform of the UK’s gambling laws could be delayed yet again.
Ranged against “Lord Snooty”, as Rees-Mogg, member for North East Somerset, has been nicknamed for his lofty, archly superior oracular delivery, is another “marmite” Conservative politician — fellow Tory grandee Sir Iain Duncan Smith, a well known, if not notorious, anti-gambling activist.
While Duncan Smith, a leading light of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Gambling Related Harm, has been orchestrating the campaign to reform the UK’s 2005 Gambling Act, Rees-Mogg is charging that the upcoming White Paper, which has been delayed for months, represents unwarranted intervention in people’s lives and is the epitome of so-called ‘nanny state’ politics.
“Rees-Mogg is trying to block it. He is telling MPs that the whole thing is a load of nanny state nonsense,” reports a high-level Whitehall source.
“It’s ideological with him. He doesn’t think the state has a role in dealing with problem gambling despite the misery it causes.
“For now he is using delaying tactics, raising a whole load of questions about the details. But it looks like his agenda is to block it.”
Duncan Smith, MP for Chingford and Woodford Green, a former Conservative party leader (2001-2003), has said: “Gambling companies are behaving atrociously. People need protection because they are getting into terrible difficulties.
“We have a situation where companies are making huge sums from people’s misery. Some of these people are getting into horrendous debts and even committing suicide.”
Many gambling industry watchers may dispute Duncan Smith’s hard-core analysis.
But few, surely, can disagree with the basic premise that in the age of the Internet and iGaming, the nation’s current Gambling Act is no longer fit-for-purpose. And needs progressive reform – if anything, sooner than later or not at all.
Meantime, a source close to Rees-Mogg denies he is trying to block the reforms. But they did acknowledge that he has asked for “clarifications”.