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Downing Street poised to step in over rumoured white paper concerns

| By Zak Thomas-Akoo
iGB understands that Downing Street may step in to advise on revisions of the Gambling Act white paper, while gambling minister Paul Scully says the document could be published “in the next few weeks”.
Autumn Statement gambling

Scully advised on the timeline of the white paper at the Betting and Gaming Council’s annual general meeting earlier today (26 January), where he spoke of the need to balance both industrial and consumer interests.

The white paper has been delayed a number of times, including as a result of the changes in government in 2022.

But Scully hinted that the white paper could come sooner rather than later, saying: “we do want to have the white paper out in the next few weeks”.

iGB understands that Downing Street may step in to advise on revisions of the document if it is not happy with the contents and that ministerial consultations have not yet begun.

The minister also warned that the publication of the white paper would not be the end of the process.

“I want to be clear though, that the white paper is not the final word on gambling reform,” he said. “It will be followed by consultations led by both DCMS and the Gambling Commission. I want the industry to stay engaged as policies are refined, finalised and implemented.

“We are putting the finishing touches to our white paper, making the final decisions and preparing for publication. We’re a matter of weeks away from you all seeing it, and then we can start the process of nailing down details and implementing reforms.”

The role of the gambling industry

While Scully took note of the significant benefits to the UK economy and treasury that the gambling sector brought, he said that part of making sure the sector flourishes is ensuring that regulations are effective in protecting people from harm.

“There are, to be blunt, still too many failings happening,” said the minister. “Some customers continue to slip through protections and are allowed or even encouraged to spend too much.

“Some go on to suffer real and serious harm, including taking their own life in extreme cases.”

While Scully commended actions that the industry had taken to address the risks, and applauded the efforts of the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) and the Gambling Commission in working to improve regulation, the minister noted that the Gambling Act review was a historic opportunity “to make sure we have the balance right”.

the minister warned that many customers continue to experience harms from gambling

Financial risk checks

However, Scully said that it was not the job of the government to decide what a customer could or could not, afford, amid a rise in industry conversation surrounding affordability checks.

“Let me be really clear here,” he said. “It is not the role of government to tell people how much of their salary they are ‘allowed to’ spend on gambling.”

Scully also suggested a change in language for affordability checks, proposing that the term be dropped in favour of “financial risk” checks.

“The Commission has already identified key areas of concern, for example particularly vulnerable customers who can be harmed by even quite small losses – perhaps they have been declared bankrupt,” he said. “Alongside that is high spending binge behaviour with the potential for lasting financial harm and high sustained losses over a longer period of time.

“I also think ‘financial risk’ is a more appropriate term, as a consideration of financial circumstances can only ever reveal that one type of risk – financial.”

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