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UK General Election Raises Concerns Over Implementation of Gambling Act White Paper Policies

As the UK braces for a general election on 4 July, questions are surfacing about the potential impact on the timeline for implementing the policies outlined in the Gambling Act review white paper.

UK General Election Raises Concerns Over Implementation of Gambling Act White Paper Policies

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak's announcement of a snap election on 22 May from Downing Street, amid pouring rain, has caused widespread uproar and uncertainty, particularly within the gambling industry. This industry is now worried about the potential delay in rolling out the long-awaited policy reforms designed to bring it into the digital age.

 

Since the white paper's publication in April 2023, despite several delays, there has been notable progress. The GB Gambling Commission initiated the first round of consultations in July 2023, focusing on four key proposals: affordability checks, online games design, enhancing consumer choice on direct marketing, and strengthening age verification for land-based operations. Recently, the Commission announced that these proposals will be introduced between August 2024 and February 2025. Additionally, the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) released its consultation response, confirming the removal of the ban on gambling with debit cards for retail measures.

 

While there has been significant progress over the last 13 months, the looming general election raises concerns about potential disruptions to the policy timeline. John White, CEO of the British Amusement Catering Trade Association (Bacta), highlighted the removal of the 80/20 ratio, allowing 1968 Act casinos to increase their gaming machines to 80 if they meet certain criteria, as a key feature of the white paper. Bacta President John Bollom urged members to contact their local parliamentary candidates to support land-based reforms, emphasizing that a snap general election is the biggest risk to the gambling white paper reforms being enacted into law. “It is imperative, if there is a change in government, that Labour finishes the job and supports the modernization of our sector to support both the high street and seaside towns,” Bollom stated.


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The Betting and Gaming Council (BGC) praised the white paper as a “once in a generation moment for change.” A BGC spokesperson reaffirmed their commitment to working with the industry to implement the white paper policies, regardless of the election outcome. “While we await the outcome of the general election, the BGC will continue its mission to raise standards and looks forward to working with whichever party wins at the polls,” the spokesperson said.

 

David Zeffman, a partner at CMS law, believes the general election should not materially impact the white paper’s policies, as there is not a significant difference between the Conservative and Labour parties' policies on gambling. However, he noted that the implementation of certain policies requiring parliamentary time could be affected. Bahar Alaeddini, a partner at Harris Hagan, echoed this, stating that the white paper was designed to require minimal legislation, with the most pressing issues like affordability checks not needing legislation.

 

Elizabeth Dunn, a partner at Bird & Bird, and Melanie Ellis, a partner at Northridge Law, both agreed that while the Labour party would likely support the white paper reforms, they may have other priorities if elected. Ellis suggested that the new government might prioritize the £5 stake limit for online slots and the statutory levy, which could be implemented through secondary legislation.

 

Ultimately, while the general election may not entirely derail the progress of the white paper policies, it could lead to delays and shifts in priorities, affecting the delicate balance between consumer freedoms and protection from harm that the white paper aims to achieve.

By fLEXI tEAM

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