UK Gambling reform on ice due to change of government

It’s been the subject of much whispered conversation over the last two years, but the planned reform of gambling law in the UK is set to be kicked further into the long grass due to the installation of a new Prime Minister in Downing Street. The speculation over what form the reform will take, and even whether it will happen, is likely to simpy increase as new Premier Liz Truss takes office with what could be described as an overflowing in-tray.

Gambling reform was mooted in early 2020 after now-former Prime Minister Boris Johnson took office. However, most government business then entered a holding pattern when the Covid pandemic hit, and although Britain is now operating without pandemic-era restrictions, much of the planned legislation has been mothballed. This will undoubtedly affect any reforms, as any planned changes to betting law are very much in their infancy. At the time of writing, no white paper has been created – and the changeover of leadership, which brought with it an almost entirely new Cabinet, means even that stage of legislation will be delayed.

Gambling reform falls under the purview of the Department for Culture, Media and Sport. With the departure of Johnson from the premiership, his chosen minister in that role, Nadine Dorries, has also left her role and is tipped to enter the House of Lords. As replacement, Truss has selected Michelle Donelan, who will now be expected to oversee any changes to gambling law.

This does not mean, however, that any plans for reform will now be junked entirely. In her time as an MP, Donelan has been minded to vote in favour of reforms, and supported legislation to place a £2 staking cap on Fixed Odds Betting Terminals during her time in Parliament. It’s likely, then, that if there is time available to advance new legislation, this will be something the new Minister is keen to pursue.

What’s less clear is what form that legislation might take. As noted, any reforms at all were in the very early days before the chaos of recent years and months, and no real detail has yet emanated from any department. The most likely changes are believed to revolve around placing maximum stakes on online casino games, as well as tightening up laws as regards bookmaker and casino loyalty schemes, which have been accused of feeding problem gambling.

The very earliest we are likely to hear about any new reforms, though, may be in 2023. The death of Queen Elizabeth II and the resulting period of mourning means that Parliament is unlikely to sit again before October, and when it does it is expected that the fuel price and cost of living crisis will dominate the national conversation as winter approaches.

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