The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) of the United Kingdom has appointed MP Damian Collins as new Minister for Tech and the Digital Economy, and he will take over responsibilities for gambling and racing after last week's resignation of Chris Philp ahead of the long-awaited White Paper on the Gambling Act Review.
The new Parliamentary Under Secretary of State will become the fourth minister to have led the review since it launched, as Philp had replaced John Whittingdale in September last year, who had previously taken over from Nigel Huddleston. Collins was elected as MP for Folkestone and Hythe in 2010. His appointment at DCMS is his first ministerial role, although he will have a keen awareness of the department’s work and policy areas, having chaired the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport select committee from 2017 to 2019.
Philp said last week that the review is already waiting for "final approval" at the Prime Minister's Office, which is temporarily in charge of the outgoing Boris Johnson, until a successor is elected.
The conclusion of the Gambling Act review, which would put an end to a 20-month-long legislative process and provide closure to gaming stakeholders and reformists alike, has been repeatedly delayed. It was initially expected in the spring, and was pushed for later this month. The DCMS was also expected to make a decision this month regarding betting shirt sponsorships in Premier League football as part of the review, with the outcome scheduled for July 21, when the House of Commons rises.
On Wednesday, Bacta, the trade body which represents Britain’s amusements and high street gaming manufacturers and operators, issued a letter signed by CEO John White to congratulate Collins on his new role, and inviting him to meet ahead of the Gambling Act Review: "It is vital that the upcoming Review recognises the importance of the land-based sector to the wider industry, whilst also taking steps to ensure that those businesses on our high streets, seafronts and across the supply chain are given the support they need to flourish. Ahead of the publication of the Review, which we have heard could be as soon as next week, we would welcome the opportunity to meet with you to discuss our views on the Review and how it can support our members."
"We were concerned by reports last month that the White Paper may not support our ask to allow debit card transactions for gaming machines in venues," Bacta stated. "It is our view that, while the Review is supposed to be about bringing the act into the digital age and redressing the balance between online and offline, such a move disadvantages members like ours, and stands in contrast to the wider societal trends towards cashless payments. This was a view we set out in a letter to the Prime Minister last week, and we would welcome the opportunity to discuss this with you directly."
Before presenting his resignation, Philp gave a new indication this week that online casinos and slots would be in the spotlight in the White Paper, and added that they are among the games that "worried him the most."
He also spoke about gambling harms posed by lotteries, including instant games, and cited a 2018 health survey for England which suggested problem gambling rates were about 0.9% for draw-based games, and 1.4% for scratchcards. He described these as being minor issues.
Ministers are reportedly considering many strategies to tackle problem gambling driven by online gaming, such as allowing maximum stakes of between £2 ($2,43) and £5 ($6,08) for online casinos, as well as a ban on free bets.
Gaming companies could also be required to remove features from online games that increase the level of risk for customers, such as quick games. They may also have to implement “affordability checks” to show how much users can safely spend, people familiar with the matter told local media. Meanwhile, the UK Gambling Commission would be granted new powers along with extra funding from increased fees paid by the industry.