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UK government shuffle could delay gambling white paper again

UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak

UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has announced expected changes in the government that will affect the department responsible for monitoring gambling in the country. These changes come at a difficult time for the gambling industry, with one of its most prominent backers distancing itself.

Sunak also disclosed that the Department of Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) needed to go in a new direction, and the restructuring will see it split from the UK’s digital policy. He unveiled plans for the newly formed Department for Science, Innovation and Technology (DSIT) as well as a “refocused” DCMS that has no connection to digital.

There will be a change in the department’s charter, with Michelle Donelan, its former culture secretary heading the new DSIT. Gambling minister Paul Scully will also be a part of the restructuring and, under Sunak’s orders, join Donelan in DSIT.

READ: BettingPlanet’s UK gambling guide

Scully notably has direct involvement with the white paper and previously informed the government that it did not need to issue a gambling limit to people. There was no further announcement concerning the future of gambling in the DCMS or if it would be moved to the DSIT.

The restructured DCMS will have Lucy Frazer as its head. The parliamentarian will be the 12th leader of the DCMS in 13 years. Frazer is the South East Cambridgeshire MP, where two horse tracks, the National Stud and July Course at Newmarket, can be found.

Due to this, Frazer could likely continue to support the “commonsense” approach used for gambling reform. Last month, Scully reiterated Donelan’s comment about this being part of the makeover.

Michael Dugher, the head of the Betting and Gaming Council (BGC), welcomed Frazer into the new position and revealed that the group hoped that she would attend to the feedback concerning the controversial affordability checks requested by the UK Gambling Commission.

Since the idea of mandatory checks was introduced, there has been a significant reduction in participation in the country’s regulated market. Enforcing these checks will likely lead to an even more substantial exodus.

Sunak’s reason for the changes is reportedly to move the country away from increasing inflation and a possible recession. While the final objective is unclear, the entire government is reinventing itself and undergoing significant transformation.

The recent restructuring comes at a time the government is gearing up to publish the Gambling Act white paper. The white paper has been delayed several times since it was commissioned in 2020. One of the reasons was due to changes in the country’s government in 2022.

The changes could potentially affect the timeline for the white paper. According to reports, the DCMS and the DSIT will be faced with significant uncertainty in the next few weeks.

As previously mentioned, the DCMS will split from digital; however, digital gaming was a prominent topic in terms of gambling reform. This could potentially alter the course of the white paper mainly because the department was set to make changes to it.

Frazer is, however, expected to exert control over the white paper’s publication and see it through to the end. Parliamentarian Carolyn Harris said she expected its release to be one of Fraser’s first tasks.

In late January, Scully claimed that the white paper would be published in “the next few weeks” but clarified that its release would not be the end of things. After the publication, consultations by the Gambling Commission and the DCMS would follow.

By the look of things, there could be another delay in the white paper’s release; however, that is yet to be confirmed.

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