Paul Scully remains reticent over UK gambling white paper

Paul Scully took over responsibility for British gambling at the end of October.
Paul Scully took over responsibility for British gambling at the end of October.

The new minister responsible for gambling made a TV appearance but remained vague about when the paper will be published.

UK.- Despite a renewed focus on the UK government’s review of gambling legislation, we’re still not getting a very specific timescale for when its hotly anticipated gambling white paper will be published. Way back at the start of the year when Chris Philp was still the minister responsible, the timing was said to be “soon”.

By mid-year, that had changed to “in a few weeks”, but then Philp quit, Boris Johnson stood down as prime minister, Damian Collins took up the gambling brief, a new prime minister took office for a few weeks, and then Rishi Sunak took office and appointed Paul Scully in Collins’ place.

The newly appointed parliamentary under-secretary of state at the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport appeared on the BBC’s Politics Live programme this week and was corned about the status of the review. But he was determined not to be pinned down.

“All I can say is that it’s in the next few weeks,” he said, using that phrase we’ve heard before. He refused to confirm if that means before Christmas or after. However, he said that he wanted to get it “absolutely right, rather than rush it”, which suggests he’s leaving room for it to be after Christmas.

“It depends how you define the ‘next few weeks’,” he added. Curious, when really what we want to know is how he defines it since he used the phrase. Other than that, Scully said he’d had a meeting with the support charity Gambling with Lives, and not much more.

Sunak makes gambling review a priority

Earlier this week, The Times reported that Sunak was now making the gambling review a priority and suggested that he favoured stricter controls. According to political editor Steven Swinford, he intends to “fix the catastrophe of online gambling”. 

That will see him “resurrect plans to curb online gambling” and thereby deliver on a Conservative pledge from its 2019 manifesto.

According to The Times, Sunak will back customer affordability checks and default stake limits of between £2 and £5 for online slots, with customers having to prove income to wager more. This is no real surprise since this is what was leaked from a claimed draft of the gambling white paper in July when Boris Johnson was still PM, however it appears to confirm that those measures remain likely to see the light of day.

As for proposed “non-intrusive affordability checks”, The Times reports that the government will consult on what mechanism to use. Other measures are set to include “more robust age verification”. The government will also create a new Gambling Ombudsman to handle consumer rights and disputes. Proposals for restrictions on free bets and VIP packages have been dropped in recognition of improved industry safeguards.

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