UK gambling white paper in doubt after PM’s resignation

All betting shops in England will be allowed to reopen from December 3, including those in areas with the highest numbers of Covid-19 infections.
All betting shops in England will be allowed to reopen from December 3, including those in areas with the highest numbers of Covid-19 infections.

The minister responsible for the UK’s review of gambling legislation resigned before Boris Johnson tendered his own resignation.

UK.- The UK’s planned overhaul of gambling legislation is becoming increasingly chaotic, now being potentially affected by the leadership battle in the governing Conservative Party. The British prime minister Boris Johnson resigned yesterday after losing the confidence of his party, putting the timescale of future legislation in even greater doubt.

Chris Philp, the minister for tech and the digital economy at the Department of Culture Media and Sport and the man responsible for overseeing the review of British gambling legislation, was one of more than 50 MPs to resign in protest at Johnson’s leadership. The mass walkout prompted Johnson himself to finally resign as leader of the Conservative Party.

What that means for the already much delayed announcement of new gambling legislation is not yet clear. It’s been announced that an interim cabinet will be formed to keep the government running in at least some form until a new leader is chosen, but it is unknown whether junior ministers who resigned, such as Philps, will be offered their positions back.

The DCMS undersecretary Nigel Huddleston, who remains in his position, has claimed that the long expected gambling white paper will still be published “in the coming weeks”, but the DCMS has been saying that all year. Johnson, however, has said that no new policy decisions will be made until a new prime minister is in place, which will require a vote of Conservative Party members to choose a new leader.

Under normal circumstances, it could take up to around three months for a new leader to be chosen, and Johnson would remain PM during that time. However, it has been suggested that the process could be sped up.

The new Conservative party leader, who would automatically be prime minister without the need for a public vote, would then choose a new cabinet. That could mark another change in the outcome of the Gambling Act review as a third minister takes on the responsibility of its overview.

Philp, MP for Croydon South, became the minister responsible for gambling just 10 months ago, replacing John Whittingdale who began the review but was removed from his post in a cabinet reshuffle just six months into the position. There have already been reports of clashes of opinions in the government about the contents of the gambling white paper.

During his time in the role, he has given few public suggestions as to what can be expected from the new gambling legislation but has put an emphasis on increased use of data for player protection measures, including the creation of a single customer view and affordably checks.

However, reports in recent weeks have, on the one hand suggested that the expected regulatory overhaul will be watered down, with a mandatory levy on gambling operators to fund gambling harm treatment being ruled out. Meanwhile, the Premier League is hoping to avoid a complete ban on gambling sponsorship by reaching a voluntary agreement to phase out front-of-shirt placement for gambing operators.

However, other reports have said that the gambling white paper will still propose expected stake limits for online slots and possibly a ban on free bets.

Yesterday morning, Philp tweeted: “I’m deeply saddened it has come to this, but the PM should step down given public and Parliamentary confidence has clearly gone, and given the importance of integrity in public life. I’m therefore stepping down as Minister for Tech and the Digital Economy now.”

Following Johnson’s announcement of his resignation, he tweeted: “The PM has done the right thing earlier today. Despite today’s circumstances, history will recall Boris’s huge achievements: landslide 2019 victory, covid vaccine rollout, protecting jobs during covid and providing world-leading support for Ukraine in their hour of darkness.”

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