The 2005 Gambling Act review will be headed by John Whittingdale, Conservative MP for Maldon and Minister for Media and Data.
Whittingdale’s nomination, which takes over from Sports Minister Nigel Huddleston, has sparked questions among gambling reform campaigners, with some highlighting the MP’s past voting record on gambling-related matters.
‘Shift in ministerial oversight’
Carolyn Harris MP, who chairs a cross-party committee looking into gambling-related damages, voiced her concern about the shift in ministerial oversight to the Guardian, urging Whittingdale not to be swayed by “aggressive industry lobbying.”
She stated: “Given the new appointee has a history of being strongly supportive of the industry, I very much hope he will be focused on the evidence and not influenced by aggressive industry lobbying.”
In 2014, Whittingdale voted against granting local councils the authority to control betting shops and fixed odds betting terminals (FOBTs), but voted in favour of allowing FOBTs at motorway service stations and amusement arcades.
Under David Cameron’s government, the MP for Maldon (Essex) previously served as Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport (2014-2016).
Despite the opposition, the Betting and Gaming Council has lauded Whittingdale’s appointment (BGC).
Commanding huge respect
Michael Dugher, Chief Executive of the BGC said: “I’d like to welcome John Whittingdale to his expanded role and enhanced responsibilities at DCMS. I know John well from my time in Parliament and in the music industry.
“John commands huge respect and he is a formidable politician who brings a wealth of experience and knowledge. The BGC represents the bulk of the regulated sector – from high street betting shops, casinos, online gaming and bingo – and we look forward to working with him.
“This is an uncertain time for many of the more than 100,000 people who work in the industry as we navigate the sector safely out of the COVID restrictions. Our industry wants to play a full part in helping kickstart the economy, supporting jobs and growth, and contributing to the exchequer.
“The BGC has warmly welcomed the Government’s Gambling Review, which is a golden opportunity to build on the work we have already done on raising standards, promoting safer gambling and driving big changes across the industry. We know how important that work is to the DCMS.”
Outgoing sports minister
Dugher also paid tribute to Niger Huddleston, the outgoing sports minister, thanking him for doing a “superb job” in “challenging circumstances.”
Dugher concluded: “He always understood the importance of the industry to the economy and to millions of people to regularly and safely enjoy a flutter. He was always willing to engage with us, in particular in championing continued progress on safer gambling.
“Given the important contribution the betting industry makes to sport and the ongoing challenges facing sport’s finances, we look forward to continuing to work with him and we wish him all the very best.”