UK Expects No New Gambling White Paper Delay Amid Latest Shuffles

Posted on: February 8, 2023, 04:05h. 

Last updated on: February 8, 2023, 12:17h.

UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak is reorganizing the country’s government at perhaps the worst time for the gambling industry. The department responsible for overseeing a long-awaited gambling white paper is undergoing reforms, and one of the strongest industry supporters is moving further away.

Secretary Michelle Donelan
UK Secretary Michelle Donelan on a London street. Her departure as head of the Department of Culture, Media and Sport could slow the publication of the UK’s gambling white paper. (Image: Getty Images)

The Department of Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) needs a new direction, according to Sunak. Therefore, it will see a change in its charter, while its former boss, Secretary Michelle Donelan, will head the newly-created Department for Science, Innovation and Technology (DSIT).

Gambling minister Paul Scully, who has had direct involvement in the white paper, is moving on as well under Sunak’s orders. The man who once said that the government doesn’t need to tell people how much they can gamble will join Donelan at the DSIT.

The Good News

The good news is that Lucy Frazer is taking over the DCMS – the 12th leader in 13 years. The parliamentarian, now on her fifth political assignment, represents South East Cambridgeshire, which is home to two horse tracks.

Therefore, there’s a good chance that she might continue to support the push for “common sense” gambling reform. Donelan once promised this as part of the makeover, and Scully reiterated that stance last month.

If the Racing Post’s assessment of her is correct — and there’s no reason to believe it isn’t — Frazer is a “supporter” of the races. At the very least, this should mean that she’s going to keep an open mind.

The head of the Betting and Gaming Council (BGC), Michael Dugher, sent her a warm welcome to the new position, adding that the group hopes she’ll heed the feedback over the controversial affordability checks the UK Gambling Commission wants.

The mere idea of mandatory financial checks has already led to a decrease in participation in the regulated market. Enforcing them would potentially cause a greater exodus.

Sunak’s priority isn’t rewriting the book on British gambling; it’s getting the country away from a recession and skyrocketing inflation. From the top down, the government is reinventing itself. This implies undergoing a number of transformations, even if the final objective isn’t clear.

The (Potentially) Bad News

The bad news is that the changes could impact the white paper time line. asserts that the DCMS and the DSIT will face “a lot of uncertainty over the coming weeks.”

The DCMS will stop focusing on “digital.” But digital gaming was one of the biggest topics of gambling reform. Therefore, as the department was on the verge of making changes to the white paper, this could alter its course.

Parliamentarian Carolyn Harris, a proponent of the UK’s gambling updates, doesn’t expect that to happen. Frazer will have control over seeing the white paper through to the end, and Harris expects its publication to be “one of her first tasks.”

For now, industry insiders will once again wait to see what happens next. It was “a few weeks ago” that the white paper would be ready “in a few weeks.” It seems inevitable that there will be another delay in its release.