New UK Gambling Rules Unlikely to Surface Until After February 2022

Posted on: December 13, 2021, 09:47h. 

Last updated on: December 13, 2021, 12:31h.

The UK isn’t likely to release its new gambling rules and regulations until sometime next spring. This is well beyond the initial due date, and the delays are beginning to cause frustration.

UK Gambling
A man gambles on a virtual gaming terminal. These, and virtually all other gambling options in the UK, could see major changes once the government completes its overhaul of regulations. (Image: The New York Times)

Gambling laws are constantly being updated in the UK, but a major reform is underway. Initially announced in 2019, the new regulatory package is expected to include a number of changes once it’s ready.

Initially, an updated white paper was expected sometime late last year. However, this had to be pushed back because of a shift in priorities. According to The Guardian, some of those who have campaigned for the changes are losing patience with the delays.

That month, also after multiple delays, the results of the National Lottery should be announced. The contest for who will lead the lottery was previously expected to be released sometime this year.

Delays ‘Lead to Heartbreak, Problem Gambling’

But some think these delays will affect more than just people’s attitudes. The founders of the non-profit “Gambling With Lives” believe it will lead to additional heartbreak for some families.

Liz and Charles Ritchie founded the group after their son committed suicide because of his gambling addiction. They’re now trying to put pressure on the government to require an investigation whenever there is a suicide that may have been triggered by a gambling problem.

“Gambling With Lives” already has support from some lawmakers, including Labour MP Carolyn Harris. She is the chair of a group of lawmakers investigating gambling-related harm and feels the government is overdue to make changes.

“The government made a commitment to reform our gambling laws in 2019. Two years later, they are still deliberating while the online industry is weakly regulated, reaps vast profits and people continue to be harmed,” said Labour MP Carolyn Harris.

UKGC Undergoing a Shift in Activity

The National Lottery is overseen by the UK Gambling Commission (UKGC), which is going through a period of adjustment. As it also oversees all gambling regulations, it has a lot of irons in the fire. The UKGC has launched an intense review of its framework and recently asked for feedback on how the public perceived its effectiveness.

That review is a factor in the ongoing delays. It doesn’t help that former member of Parliament John Whittingdale, who was to lead a review of the gambling industry, was ousted. Concerns that he might be biased toward favoring the industry led to Chris Philp replacing him.

Philp doesn’t seem to share the same pro-gambling sentiment. He said last week, as he acknowledged the white paper is coming, that there could be a major crackdown on the industry.

The UKGC has stated that it wants to get through the lottery process before releasing the white paper, according to The Guardian. The combination of activity centered on the UKGC is creating a perfect storm that is forcing initiatives to take longer than expected. Even after the white paper is released, there will still be more time needed to implement any proposed changes.

It isn’t clear if the pressure will cause the UKGC and members of Parliament to react. There’s a lot at stake in the £14-billion (US$18 billion) industry, and there are a lot of moving parts that have to be considered.