John Whittingdale is the new man in charge of the lotteries and gambling portfolio at the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS).
Whittingdale, who is the Minister for Media and Data, will now be in charge of the review of the gambling Act that this week we reported will not come into force until 2022.
Whittingdale is a veteran and sometimes controversial politician in the Conservative Party. This appointment adds to a long list of responsibilities the MP for Maldon has in his place.
He has voted consistently against tighter gambling regulation in the past: he voted against allowing councils powers to set limits on the number of betting shops and fixed-odds betting terminals. He voted against limiting stakes and prizes in the same sort of machines. He has also voted against enforcing bans for players who ask for a self-exclude from UK gambling sites.
The Betting and Gaming Council is the largest industry body in the UK, and they seem to be pleased with the announcement.
Michael Dugher, the council’s chief executive, 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.”
The BGC are talking up the role of the gambling industry in bringing the economy back to life as the UK opens up again after the end of the pandemic.
The long-awaited review of the gambling act, 2005, has been trailed since last December. A huge amount of lobbying and manoeuvring has gone on since it was announced.
The UK Gambling Commission will be in charge of enforcing any new rules and has already taken steps of its own.
New rules introduced last month and due to come into force this autumn have limited the use of some features on online slots – the UK’s favourite gambling pastime. These tweaks have slowed down the speed of games and changed the way that some wins are signalled to players.
There are likely to be more far-reaching changes made to the gambling industry after the report of the review, which will involve the industry, regulators, and a new group of those with lived experience of gambling harms.
Dugher describes the review as a “golden opportunity” to work with changes that the industry says it has already made.
Among the changes being considered by the review are limits on betting, advertising bans or restrictions, and how the UK GC operates.
Evidence is being collected by the UK GC until the end of March and it is likely to have tens of thousands of submissions to deal with. AS the first major review of these laws since liberalisation in 2005 this report will set the rules for the gambling industry for years to come.