Underscoring the need for a ‘balance’ between player protection and customer interference, a Labour MP from County Durham has highlighted the betting industry’s economic contributions.
Grahame Morris of Easington consistency – writing in Politics Home – pointed to the sector’s role in employment and development across the North East, as well as the North West and Midlands regions.
Addressing his home region, the MP noted that 2,000 people are employed in North Eastern betting shops and casinos and hundreds more are supported in racing.
Nationwide, 119,000 are directly employed by the industry, whilst Morris observed that Flutter Entertainment’s 1,700 strong hub in Leeds, bet365’s 4,500 staff in Stoke-on-Trent and a potential sector-wide creation of 15,000 additional jobs are examples of ‘levelling up in action’ across England’s Midlands and Northern areas.
However, the MP had some reservations about possible regulatory changes, saying: “Despite delivering the government’s levelling up agenda, this investment in local economies, people and skills, is under threat through government regulations.
“A new White Paper, which has been repeatedly delayed, is expected soon with a raft of changes. The Betting and Gaming Industry embraces change, but unfair regulations will not protect the thousands of people working in the sector. We need balance, protecting the vulnerable while not impacting the majority who enjoy a bet.”
The White Paper has been long overdue, with the review of the 2005 Gambling Act having been initiated in December 2020 and the outcome apparently due in the Spring.
A series of delays, the last occurring after Boris Johnson’s resignation, have seen the review’s conclusion set for September or possibly October, although there are now murmurings that it may be shelved entirely by the new Liz Truss administration.
The White Paper comes amid the ongoing costs of living crisis, which is driving up expenditures such as energy bills for operators, whilst charities such as GambleAware have pointed to the impact it could have on gambling related harm, as people seek new means of income.
In Morris’ view, the review should seek to ‘empower players’ by building on existing tools such as time-outs, deposit limits, self-exclusion schemes such as GamStop and gambling blocking software such as Gamban.
The MP argued that ‘heavy handed’ policies such as a bet on free bet promotions, extensive affordability checks at ‘very low levels’ will create a lucrative, unregulated, and dangerous black market’, impacting player safety, whilst also providing a hurdle to the job creation opportunities the industry poses.
“Our regional economies are not benefiting from government Levelling Up schemes,” he said:
“Where the private sector is leading the way, we need to encourage and develop growth. We cannot allow the government to undermine one of the few industries delivering on levelling up.”