Gambling Minister Paul Scully has warned industry leadership that the White Paper’s publishing of gambling reforms will not end discussions on gambling and its impact on society.
Speaking at GambleAware‘s tenth annual conference, Scully, the fifth DCMS minister to oversee the Gambling Review’s agenda, recognised frustrations at the continued delay of the White Paper.
“I am aware that you’ve seen a few different faces in the role of gambling minister in the last six months,” Scully told audiences.
“It is a challenging brief, but one that I have enjoyed getting stuck into, and I look forward to the very important work that we will be doing.”
Enduring disruptive changes to government, the Gambling Review maintains its 2019 manifesto pledge “to ensure that UK gambling is fit for the digital age“.
Scully reassures that “DCMS leads on all aspects of gambling policy and regulation, and we look at it through a variety of lenses,” in which a well-regulated industry is compatible with keeping the vulnerable from experiencing harm.
The Minister stated, “We are in a good position in this country, in that most gambling is done in the licensed sector, where operators have to comply with Gambling Commission rules to keep their licence. We want that to remain the position.”
“Within that licensed sector, we have to be continually alert to make sure we have the right protections and safety nets, and that they are working as they should.”
Yet, Scully echoed PM Rishi Sunak’s concerns that “gambling’s landscape today is entirely different to 2005”, in which regulations and protections must respond to consumer’s digital environments, where gambling interactions are only a click away.
On gambling policy, DCMS recognises the importance of the Department of Health and Social Care as the government’s steward on public health and welfare issues, whose concerns must be at the forefront of pending reforms.
Scully stated concern that “the last Health Survey for England found that 246,000 people were considered problem gamblers, with a further 1.6 million at risk of suffering harm.”
Beyond statistics, DCMS recognises the worst social outcomes attributed to gambling, including “bankruptcy, losing a home, relationship and family breakdown and even suicide.”
“Our review of the Gambling Act will take action to help prevent these harms, with targeted, proportionate and effective reform.”
“As I’m sure you’ll agree though, gambling harms cannot be tackled by working in isolation,” – Scully outlined in support of GambleAware’s conference theme of “Taking action to tackle gambling harms as a public health issue“.
Pending reforms must ensure the health objective that “anyone who is experiencing gambling-related harm can access the right support whenever and wherever they might need it.”
In his address, Scully praised the work of the UK Gambling Commission (UKGC) in tightening protections and undertaking tougher enforcement activity – “In the past year alone we’ve seen a number of operators pay out over £45 million because of regulatory failures – two of the largest operators alone have paid £26m.”
“By comparison, in the whole of the 2016/17 financial year, the Commission took action against 3 operators who paid £1.7m due to regulatory failures.”
Now in its final process, the Review is focused on tackling and preventing harms, in which the government will establish up to 15 specialist NHS gambling addiction clinics by 2023/2024.
Scully praised the “work of GambleAware and GamCare to help integrate your services with those of the NHS, including in primary care settings.”
The Minister concluded that DCMS had secured vital evidence from stakeholders such as frontline NHS clinicians, GambleAware and the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) to draw a coherent response to the UK’s current gambling issues.
“We’re determined to make sure that the Review gets the right protections in place,” Scully noted.
“I am pleased to confirm that we are keen to publish it in the coming weeks. But I want to make clear that the white paper is not the end of our discussions on these matters.”