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Experts and Academics Criticize Gambling White Paper and Advocate for Independent Policymaking

The ongoing gambling reform inquiry witnessed the testimony of several prominent academics and specialists who shared their perspectives on the gambling white paper released by the government in April. The inquiry, conducted by an 11-MP select committee, aims to scrutinize the work of the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) and its associated bodies.

Experts and Academics Criticize Gambling White Paper and Advocate for Independent Policymaking

Although the testimony varied, a number of common themes emerged. Witnesses expressed frustration with the slow pace of reform, voiced skepticism about the government's ability to deliver on its promises, and emphasized the need to ensure that policymaking remains independent of industry influence.

Writer and policy advisor Dr. James Noyes described the publication of the white paper as a "symbolic step towards achieving reform" but pointed out significant shortcomings within the document. This sentiment was echoed by Glasgow University professor Heather Wardle and Dr. Matthew Gaskell, clinical lead for the NHS Northern Gambling Service.

While the witnesses acknowledged some limited successes of the white paper, they specifically highlighted areas where more work could have been done, such as advertising, marketing, and sports sponsorship. Dr. Gaskell criticized the proposals for not going far enough, emphasizing the need for stronger action in these areas. Wardle added that the recommendations were not based on strong evidence, which exists for action on advertising and marketing.

Another aspect of the white paper that received criticism was the provisions put out for consultation. Concerns were raised about the fragmented approach to consultations and the potential for delays and piecemeal regulation. Witnesses stressed the importance of a coherent and joined-up approach, with effective collaboration between regulators and government departments.

Dr. Noyes highlighted the risk of the Gambling Commission being overwhelmed by the sheer number of consultations, potentially impeding their ability to fulfill their ongoing duties of licensing and compliance. This could lead to further delays and piecemeal regulation rather than a comprehensive approach.

The witnesses also stressed the importance of ensuring that government decisions are independent from industry influence. They expressed concerns about the gambling industry's close ties to the political process and highlighted the need to insulate policy decisions from industry desires. Instances of industry influence, such as the gifting of hospitality to MPs during an independent legislative review, were cited as examples of problematic practices.

The testimonies underscored the urgent need for a comprehensive and effective approach to gambling reform. Witnesses called for independent policymaking that prioritizes evidence-based action on issues such as advertising and marketing. They emphasized the importance of safeguarding the integrity of the policymaking process and ensuring that industry influence does not undermine the goal of achieving meaningful reform.


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