Home NewsRegulations & Licenses The White Paper policies have finally come to light. Can the UK election undermine their progress?

The White Paper policies have finally come to light. Can the UK election undermine their progress?

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In advance of the UK General Election on the 4th July, iGB examines if this will impact the timeline proposed for implementing policies from the Gambling Act Review White Paper.

On 22 May, standing in the rain behind Downing Street’s podium, Rishi Sunak, announced that snap elections would be held on 4 July.

This announcement caused an immediate uproar in the UK. The gambling industry was particularly concerned about the impact of this announcement on the implementation of policies laid out in the Gambling Act Review White Paper, a long-anticipated policy document which promised to move the industry forward into the digital era.

Since its publication on April 20, 2023, there have been significant improvements in the proposals.

On 22 May, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak called for snap elections.

In July 2023 the GB Gambling Commission will open the first consultation round, focusing on four proposals that are most urgent. The four most pressing proposals were: affordability checks, the design of online games, enhancing consumer choice in direct marketing, and strengthening age verification at land-based operators.

The Commission announced the next steps in these proposals at the start of this month. The proposals will be implemented between August 2024 to February 2025. The Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), published last week its response to the consultation for retail-centric measure, which confirmed that the existing ban on gambling using debit cards would be lifted.

In the past 13 months, the Commission and DCMS have all made progress on the proposals of the White Paper. Could the policy timetable be affected by the impending general elections?

Bacta puts its weight behind proposals for land-based projects

John White of British Amusement Catering Trade Association, (Bacta), highlighted this feature when the first white paper was published.

The DCMS consultation response from last week included this rule, which will allow casinos operating under the 1968 Act an increase in their gaming machine count to 80. This is true only if your casino meets the criteria of the small 2005 Act Casino.

John Bollom urged Bacta’s members last week to speak with their local candidates about land reforms.

He said that a snap election would be the greatest risk in enacting the white paper gambling reforms. I am asking all Bacta members to reach out to their candidates for parliamentary office, especially those from the Labour Party. Encourage them to back the reforms of land-based gaming.

In the next few days, we will provide advice on this to our members.

The Labour Party should continue to implement the proposals based on land and support “modernization” if they are elected.

John Bollom said a general election was “always the biggest risk” with getting the policies enacted

Bollom added, “It’s imperative that, in the event of a government change, Labour completes the task and continues to modernise our industry, so as to help both high streets and coastal towns.”

The reforms we are undertaking in our industry are vital. They may not have been derailed, but they could well be delayed. “Our campaign continues.”

BGC looks forward to working “whichever party is the winner”

After its release, the Betting and Gaming Council (BGC), hailed it as a “once-in-a-generation moment of change”. Michael Dugher (then-CEO) of the BGC asked that MPs consider the impact of this white paper on the industry at a July 2023 committee meeting.

A BGC spokesperson told iGB that despite the upcoming general elections, the organization will work closely with industry in order to implement white papers policies.

The spokesperson said, “The BGC continues to deliver on the measures laid out in the White Paper. It was called by many a moment of change in regulated gaming and betting that is unlike any other in history.”

The BGC is committed to raising standards, and will work with the party that wins the election.

How policies are implemented determines the progress of a country

Note that not all of the responsibility for implementing the white papers lies with the Commission. Some policies are under DCMS while others require a thorough discussion in parliament.

David Zeffman of CMS law says the results at general elections will not affect any future progress.

The general elction is unlikely to have any real effect on the progress of the reforms, says David Zeffman

He says that “in principle there are not many differences between Conservative and Labour party policies regarding gambling, which should mean there shouldn’t be any material impact on white book’s policies.”

It depends, however, on the way in which the policy is implemented. When the Gambling Commission is responsible for the implementation, such as through changes to the LCCP, there’s no reason that the outcome of policy should be impacted.

As they had to go before the parliament, measures outside of the Commission’s mandate were expected to take longer to implement. Zeffman says that the announcement of general elections is not likely to further slow down things.

He explains that “where the outcome of a policy requires time in the parliament, whether primary or secondary legislation is required, it does not guarantee gambling will feature high on the agenda for the next government.”

The government has recently responded to a consultation on gambling in land-based casinos. While the reforms proposed are welcomed by land-based operators, they require legislation. It is not clear when or if this will be passed.

Most likely to be affected are reforms affecting land-based agriculture

The general election could have “unpredictable consequences” on how the white paper is put into action, says Bahar Alaeddini

Bahar Alaeddini is a partner with Harris Hagan. He says that the whitepaper was intentionally drafted to ensure minimal legislation for its implementation. The most urgent issues, such as affordability checks, don’t need any legislation.

Alaeddini says that there is “no reason” why the Gambling Commission and a newly elected government in general agreement should not work together to implement these changes.

She says that even with the allowances made, it is likely that land reforms will be affected by general elections.

She continues, “Even this limited time in parliament has proven to be inadequate and the reforms that will most directly impact the general elections are the land-based liberations – casino’s, gaming machine entitlements (cashless) – and online slot stake limitations and statutory levies.” If elected, Labour will support the reforms in the White Paper, but they’ll have other priorities.

Elizabeth Dunn is a partner with Bird & Bird’s and agrees the Labour Party will be more focused on pressing issues if they are elected to power.

She says that a Labour-led government is unlikely to take a position more liberal on the gambling issue than the present government, and therefore the reforms in the land-based industry could be put at risk.

Prioritise which proposals?

Alaeddini says that while a complete halt to white paper progress seems unlikely, it will still have an impact on the way things play out.

The white paper marked a significant moment in this industry’s evolution. While the reset button is not yet pressed, it could disrupt or delay the delicate and critical balance between the consumer choices and freedoms on one side and the protection against harm on the opposite.

Melanie Ellis believes the £5 stake limit for online slots and the statutory levy will take priority for the new government

Melanie Ellis, a partner with Northridge Law, believes that the reforms which require legislative action may not be progressed until September. Which of these proposals will be prioritized?

Ellis predicts that the new government would want to move quickly on the PS5 limit, as it only needs to present regulations to the parliament in order to impose new license conditions for operators. However, the implementation date of September will be delayed,” Ellis says.

I also anticipate that the new government would want to push ahead with statutory levies. It can also be done through secondary legislation. However, in this instance the structure of the levies needs to be finalised.

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