Speculation mounts that UK may cancel gambling review

The UK government
The UK government

The new prime minister Liz Truss is said to be in favour of ditching several planned reforms.

UK.- Speculation is brewing that the UK government may finally scrap its long delayed overhaul of gambling legislation. The new prime minister Liz Truss is said to favour ditching plans for new regulation in a range of areas in order to focus on economic growth.

Originally due to be published at the start of the year, the Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport’s white paper on gambling has been pushed back month after month. It was reportedly ready for publication when Boris Johnson’s resignation put things on hold.

Now The Guardian has suggested that any new legislation based on the two-year review could be scrapped completely. The newspaper’s chief political correspondent Jessica Elgot, has reported that Truss wants to axe the animal welfare bill, the energy bill, the online harms bill and reforms of gambling legislation.

The PM has already signalled plans to scrap the bill of rights, the government’s obesity strategy, and the cap on bankers’ bonuses, so it stands to reason that other planned reforms could face the chop.

The changes all fit the same cultural and economic pattern, The Guardian suggests, with Truss having told ministers to focus efforts on promoting growth rather than burden business with new regulation. That’s a message that could win over many Tory backbenchers in the wake of Truss’s promised spending to alleviate the energy crisis.

However, any decision to completely drop plans to reform gambling legislation will prove controversial and will attract intense criticism, including from within the ruling Conservative party. Iain Duncan Smith was already on the warpath over rumours that the expected reforms had been watered down.

Even the gambling industry itself will have mixed feelings about reforms being scrapped. While it’s true that the leaked contents of the white paper in its last known form contained measures unpopular with operators – most notably affordability checks, stake limits for online slots and a ban on VIP schemes – the content was not as severe as it could have been.

The danger of no reform is that the intense criticism of gambling in the media and from campaigners and anti-gambling politicians will continue unabated, casting a shadow over the industry’s reputation.

Michelle Donelan has been named as secretary of state for the Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, whose remit includes gambling, replacing Nadine Dorries, who resigned as Truss took office. However, it remains to be seen who will be named to lead the review, which was in its final stages before the interruption of the Conservative Party leadership contest. 

Damian Collins was put in charge of the review temporarily following the resignation of Chris Philp in protest at Boris Johnson’s leadership July, but it’s not clear to what extent Truss may want to put her own stamp on the gambling white paper.

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