John Whittingdale MP answered questions from the audience at the BGC AGM.
UK.- Speaking at the Betting and Gaming Council AGM, John Whittingdale MP, the minister responsible for gambling prior to the appointment of Chris Philp in a reshuffle last September, said the government needed to make a judgment on whether lobby groups represent the views of gamblers and the general public.
Asked whether the government’s pending white paper on British gambling legislation would reflect the views of gamblers and the general public, Whittingdale answered: “I think my first response to that would be that 16,000 responses is a pretty big outcome for a government consultation.
“A lot of those will be organised, for example, through lobby groups who write the response for their followers. Responses will all be identical but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t read them as they are people who agree with that particular position.
“That is the first way in which you try to judge the public or what consumers want. We often receive letters from constituents about gambling, from both sides of the argument. And then I get a lot of letters, for instance, I was contacted by quite a lot of racecourses who were deeply concerned about intentions or impacts on horserace betting. That again is a means by which people can influence the debate.
“I always think you’re absolutely right there is a risk that some can create an impression that the overwhelming majority of people believe one thing, whereas, in actual fact, it can be the opposite. It’s just that the overwhelming majority of the public doesn’t shout as loud as lobby groups. And that’s something that governments have to reach a judgement about.”
Whittingdale also recognised frustrations with the British regulator, the Gambling Commission, but noted that changes had been made.
He said: “I think some feel the Gambling Commission has certainly in the past been less effective as perhaps some would have liked. But obviously, the Gambling Commission is, at present, changing management with a new chair and chief executive in place.”