It is stated that PM Boris Johnson has advised his closest advisors to take direct charge of the imminent review of the 2005 Gambling Act by the government, directing the changes and agenda of the DCMS.
Reported by the Guardian this weekend, Dominic Cummings and Munira Mirza – the No10 Policy Unit’s director – are rumoured to have taken a ‘personal interest in the review’ that may entail a reform of significant sections of the legislation, including possible new advertisement curbs and the development of a gambling ombudsman.
An MP who is said to have ‘intimate knowledge’ of Whitehall discussions said: “The PM just sees it as people being exploited and it’s not him.”
In the face of growing concerns, the DCMS could be at odds with the financial contributions created by betting ads, which provides crucial funding for both sports teams and broadcasters.
One MP who is confirmed to have DCMS knowledge said: “Like any organisation, departments become quite linked in to these industries [such as sport and broadcasting]… They weren’t that keen on changing tobacco advertising back in the day but it happened.”
Nigel Huddleston, Minister of Sports, has previously expressed his support for a wide-ranging review, previously calling on the gambling industry to step up its industry-led review, which aims to consider future curbs on controversial VIP schemes, advertisement technologies and game design.
Nevertheless, speaking last week in the House of Lords, DCMS Minister Lady Barran seemed dubious about the risks of advertising: “I cannot be specific on the scope of the review, but the evidence is not clear about the link between advertising and problem gambling, particularly among young people.” “I cannot be specific on the scope of the review, but the evidence is not clear about the link between advertising and problem gambling, particularly among young people.”
It is confirmed that an unidentified DCMS official has insisted that the review would be a joint effort between the department and No. 10, discarding any suggestions that Downing Street would lead the review.
Campaigning during last year’s Snap Election, PM Johnson had personally claimed that the 2005 Gambling Act, formed under the government of Tony Blair, had become a ‘digital age analogue.’
In its manifesto, as part of the government’s broader overhaul of the UK’s digital structures, the Conservative Party had allocated a revision of UK online gaming regulations, in which it pledged to ‘legislate to make Britain the safest place in the world to be online.’
The House of Lords formed its ‘Peers for Gambling Reform’ (PGR) party, headed by Lord Foster of Bath, as industry reform entered the government’s autumn agenda, conducting a review of industry protections and customer service duties.
Taking control of the PGR study, which will inform policymakers, Lord Foster said urgent industry action needs to be taken as the UK currently maintains ‘‘a third of a million problem gamblers, including 55,000 children, and one gambling-related suicide every day’.