Chris Philp, DCMS Minister for Tech and Digital, has joined the ranks of Conservative MPs that have resigned from their appointed office, protesting the leadership of PM Boris Johnson.
Johnson has been hit with a tidal wave of resignations over the past two days, and whilst much of the public’s attention has understandably been on the political consequences, the gambling industry should also consider the potential ramifications.
Though not a senior cabinet member, Philp as an undersecretary of DCMS carried the duties of overseeing the government’s review of the 2005 Gambling Act.
According to The Telegraph, Philp informed the PM upon vacating his position: “Given events over the past few weeks and months I therefore think that you should resign as Prime Minister and it follows that I cannot serve in your Government any longer.”
In his resignation letter, Philp stated that the Gambling Act review is ‘with No 10’, adding that the White Paper would contain ‘strong measures to protect people from the ravages of gambling addiction’.
I’m deeply saddened it has come to this, but the PM should step down given public and Parliamentary confidence has clearly gone, and given the importance of integrity in public life. I’m therefore stepping down as Minister for Tech and the Digital Economy now pic.twitter.com/iXyd7inBQP
— Chris Philp (@CPhilpOfficial) July 7, 2022
During his tenure as Gambling Minister, Philp provided the industry with several snapshots into what to expect from the review, with a particular emphasis placed on a Single Customer View (SCV) and increased use of data and technology for player protection.
On the more contentious issue of affordability, the Minister maintained that some checks would be implemented, but at GambleAware’s ninth annual conference in December 2021 dismissed the notion of £100 loss limits.
His resignation, however, means that the publication of the Gambling Act review White Paper could be further delayed, as the government scrambles to get its house in order.
In an interview with Sky News outside Westminster, Philp did hint that he would be open to returning to his duties as DCMS under-secretary under an alternative Conservative leader.
He said: “If I was asked to help out to get the Online Safety Bill to Parliament, I would be willing to help out in any way I could, in any capacity, whoever the leader was and whatever the circumstances were – that’s a matter of public service.
“I want to be clear I’m not asking for that, I’m not expecting it – I resigned, and when you resign you resign. If I can help out practically I will obviously give practical assistance.”
The conclusion of the Gambling Act review, which would bring an end to the 20 months long legislative process and provide closure to gaming stakeholders and reformists alike, has been repeatedly delayed.
Initially expected in the Spring, the industry was later informed that the review’s outcomes would become apparent later this month – given that the government likely has new priorities as Johnson seeks to refill his empty cabinet seats, this is unlikely.
Additionally, the DCMS was also expected to make a decision this month regarding betting shirt sponsorships in Premier League football as part of the review judgement – an outcome was scheduled for 21 July.
On the other hand, reports have suggested that Nigel Huddleston MP – also DCMS undersecretary, but who has not handed in his resignation – asserts that the White Paper is still on track for release ‘in the coming weeks’.
Nigel Huddleston MP says that, the resignation of gambling minister @CPhilpOfficial notwithstanding, the gambling review white paper will be published "in the coming weeks".
Which is what they've been saying since anyone can remember so, amazingly, nothing has changed.
— Rob Davies (@ByRobDavies) July 7, 2022
This week, Philp was questioned by a DCMS oversight committee on the government’s gambling agenda, as impatience for the White Paper publication mounts.
The Croydon South MP backed the UKGC’s leadership overhaul, affordability measures and cited confidence that DCMS would win a £600m lawsuit filed by Camelot UK against the decision to award the National Lottery’s operating licence to Allwyn UK.
With Philp one of over 50 MPs calling for Johnson’s resignation after a series of scandals and controversies, reports in the UK media suggest that the PM will soon resign from his own position.
A subsequent leadership election would then be held by the Conservative Party in order to choose the next PM, who in turn would then choose their own cabinet. This will see a new Minister take the reins at the DCMS and hold oversight of gambling, perhaps initiating another shift on the review’s outcomes and expected conclusion.
A frantic 24-hours of political manoeuvring, has seen divided opinion as to Johnson’s future as PM, as since yesterday 50 MPs have resigned from their duties.
Party peers have yet to decide whether to amend 1922 Committee rules and force MPs to take another vote of confidence in Johnson’s leadership of the party.
Meanwhile, speculation mounts that Johnson may simply order a snap cabinet reshuffle, appointing ministerial duties to his remaining acolytes – as ongoing developments are observed by all business leaders.