Speculation mounts across the UK media’s grapevine that April will be the definitive month in which the government publishes the long-overdue White Paper on gambling reforms.
Writing in The Sunday Times, long-standing gambling critic Dominic Lawson – son of Nigel Lawson, former Chancellor of the Thatcher government – cited: “I’m told the white paper will at last be published on 17 April.”
The editorial called for the government to fix the “foolish liberalisation of gambling by the Blair-Brown administration in 2005,” which had created a less regulatory stringent market than the free-market USA.
Lawson cited the painstaking ordeal of the Ritchie Family, who lead the “Gambling with Lives” campaign to reform the industry, representing families bereaved by gambling-related suicides.
Since the government’s 2019 manifesto pledge to reform the sector, the Ritchie family has witnessed “10 different ministers” handle the gambling brief, according to Lawson.
The Sunday Times article concluded on the importance of PM Rishi Sunak settling final outcomes and which path the government takes to regulate UK gambling.
“So, it is up to Sunak to do the decent thing. If he wants philosophical justification, he should read an essay by James Noyes recently published by the Social Market Foundation think tank, subtitled ‘The Conservative Case for Regulating Freedom in a Failed Market,'” Lawson concluded.
“It points out that even Margaret Thatcher’s free-market hero Friedrich Hayek argued that gamblers’ debts were traditionally unenforceable and compared them to slavery. The smartphone is now their ball and chain.
Elsewhere, Rob Davies, who leads The Guardian’s coverage of the Gambling Review, tweeted last week that he had been informed that PM Sunak had “signed off on the release.”
Gambling news: Hearing this is now signed off by the PM, White Paper likely to drop in mid-to-late April. Off work today so can’t write but anyone interested in the WP already knows what’s in it by now. Loads out there to read by me and others. https://t.co/piK7BI5AZJ
— Rob Davies (@ByRobDavies) March 21, 2023
An April settlement for the Gambling Review follows Sunak clearing the hurdles of a busy March in which the PM secured his first major victory, securing the passage of the revised Northern Ireland Protocol Bill.
This morning’s announcement by the UK Gambling Commission (UKGC) of a record fine totalling £19m imposed on William Hill’s business is reported as a further signal for Sunak to publish the White Paper.
Yet, industry leadership remains cautious about media narratives, as disappointment has previously followed all rumours of an ‘imminent release.’ As April beckons, Sunak will likely serve as the outlier in how the Gambling Review is finally settled, bringing closure to a four-year discourse.