New UK Culture Ministry Boss Promises White Paper Soon, but More Delays Likely

Posted on: March 3, 2023, 07:02h. 

Last updated on: March 6, 2023, 03:00h.

Lucy Frazer, a UK parliamentarian who recently became the country’s third Culture Secretary in a year, is confident that the government’s gambling white paper is coming soon. However, with the legislative session ending this month, another delay could be on the way.

UK Culture Minister Lucy Frazer speaks at the Creative Coalition Festival
UK Culture Minister Lucy Frazer speaks at the Creative Coalition Festival. She has acknowledged the government is working on the gambling white paper but can’t confirm when it will be ready. (Image: Arts Professional)

This week at the government-led Gambling with Lives forum, Frazer asserted that the reforms are a priority for her and Sunak. She said the government is “committed to publishing it soon” but cautioned that the definition of soon, in this case, is relative.

While Frazer acknowledges that the white paper is “an absolute priority,” she stopped short of defining a time frame for its release. Instead, she explained that she wants “to give these issues justice and take some time” to discuss them thoroughly.

During her speech, Frazer says she had spent several weeks talking to industry insiders to glean information about operations. Based on the official transcript, she appears to have spent most of her time talking to anti-gambling lobbyists.

In one comment, Frazer asserted that “gambling doesn’t just destroy the lives of the gamblers themselves.”

At the beginning of February, Frazer took over as the head of the Department of Culture, Media, and Sport (DCMS). This was part of a shakeup of positions within Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s government.

Long Wait

The UK government will take a break at the end of this month and not return until May. It’s possible the white pages could be published before then.

But even when the government releases the white paper, it won’t be the final word. In addition to allowing feedback and input on the recommendations, Frazer clarified in her comments that gambling reform would be a constant work in progress in the future.

The DCMS has direct oversight over the white paper, which has been in the works for over two years. Those two years have also been filled with government upheavals that have impacted several programs.

Economic Uncertainty

A shift in the UK’s market has already begun, and there are indications that things could worsen before they improve. Flutter’s recent financial health update is one possible indication. While it reported an increase in revenue, it also suffered a post-tax loss of £305 million (US$365.51 million) across all its operations.

The UK-based gaming company hyped its US performance while downplaying its activity elsewhere. CEO Peter Jackson described operations outside the US as uncertain, as they face “regulatory changes and challenging benchmarks.”

There have been talks of Flutter considering a listing on a US-based stock exchange, which would take its place behind its primary listing on the London Stock Exchange (LSE). Jackson has also admitted that the US could become its primary listing, according to the Financial Times.

Financial Change

This signals a change in how companies view the value of having a spot on the LSE. CRH, one of the largest building materials companies in the world, is considering giving up its spot, following in the footsteps of UK-based Ferguson. The heating and plumbing supply company moved out last year.

Shell, the massive oil company, also considered moving from the LSE to a US exchange. SoftBank had been considering listing its Arm computer chip company in the UK or the US but has now decided that the US is the smartest option.

At a time when finding economic stability is a priority, clipping the gambling industry would be counterproductive. Amid economic uncertainty and inflation, disposable income is at a premium for many consumers, including gamblers.