SBC News Iain Duncan Smith: Government ‘not altogether certain’ on Gambling Review

Iain Duncan Smith: Government ‘not altogether certain’ on Gambling Review

Anyone who attended the discussion on the Gambling Act review at the Conservative Party conference in Birmingham yesterday hoping for clarity may well have been dismayed. 

Speaking on the ‘the gambling white paper and the future of reform’ panel on Tuesday afternoon, former Conservative leader and long-time gambling reform advocate Iain Duncan Smith stated that the White Paper is a ‘work in progress’. 

The White Paper was initially scheduled for publication during the spring, but has since been repeatedly delayed, the latest setback being the resignation of Boris Johnson, Tory leadership election and Lizz Truss’ assumption of the premiership.

As reported by the Racing Post, Smith remarked at the event that it is ‘not altogether certain where the government is right now’ on the review, which under Truss is ‘in exactly the same place as it was before’ under Johnson.

“The problem is that names have all changed and people who therefore knew something about it are no longer in the posts that they were,” he informed the audience.

“It’s a case of re-education and getting people to understand what they are sitting on and why it’s necessary. So that may take a little bit more time. But as I say nobody has come out with an absolute ‘no, this should not go through.”

Duncan Smith is a strong supporter of gambling reform, sitting as a member of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Gamlbing Related Harm (GRH APPG), stating in March of this year – around the time the White Paper was first due for publication – that change is ‘long overdue’.

At the time, the MP for Chingford and Woodford Green asserted that then-gambling minister Chris Philp had ‘explained his intentions’ for the review, which included a desire for increased use of technology and data for harm prevention. 

In his comments to the conference yesterday, Duncan Smith stated that Philp is still eager to press ahead with gambling reforms in his new capacity as Chief Secretary to the Treasury, despite there being some pushback from this department due to concerns over loss of gambling revenues. 

Despite the consistent delays to the review, as well as murmurings that the new Truss administration may shelve it entirely, Duncan Smith remains hopeful that reform will go ahead, sharing that he had recently visited Downing Street to push developments forward.

“It’s going to be one of those things where the government will have to balance the time they have for doing it and whether or not they’re driven to do it for the right reasons, and that’s really a game of persuasion I guess,” he was reported as saying in the Racing Post.

Tuesday’s panel was organised by the Social Market Foundation (SMF), and in addition to Smith featured input from Professor Henrietta Bowden-Jones OBE, National Clinical Advisor on Gambling Harms, NHS England; Ravi Naik, Legal Director, AWO Agency and Matt Zarb-Cousin, Director, Clean Up Gambling.

The SMF, a cross-party think-tank on social policy issues, has been an active voice in the calls for a mandatory RET funding levy, alongside the Northern Gambling Clinic (NGC) and GambleAware – although the SMF and NGC have been somewhat critical of the latter, arguing that it is not independent from industry influence.

Although Duncan Smith asserted at this week’s conference that the Gambling Act review White Paper is still a work in progress, the publication date of the judgement – if any – is still unclear. 

As a result, the industry and reform advocates are still awaiting the government’s decision on a range of issues, including the possible introduction and scale of affordability checks, implications for sports sponsorships and the future of RET funding.

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