Third UK Culture Ministry Boss in a Year Promises Gambling Reform Is Coming

Lucy Frazer, a UK parliamentarian who became the country’s third Culture Secretary in a year recently, is confident that the government’s gambling white paper is coming soon. However, she isn’t rushing and with the legislative session ending this month, there could be another delay.

UK Culture Minister Lucy Frazer speaks at the Creative Coalition Festival
UK Culture Minister Lucy Frazer speaks at the Creative Coalition Festival. She has acknowledged the government is working on the gambling white paper, but can’t confirm when it will be ready. (Image: Arts Professional)

Frazer took over as the head of the Department of Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) at the beginning of February. This was part of a shakeup of positions within Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s government.

The DCMS has direct oversight over the white paper, which has been in the works for over two years. However, those two years have also been filled with government upheavals that have impacted a number of programs.

White Paper A Priority

Speaking this week at the government-led Gambling with Lives forum, Frazer asserted that the reforms are a priority for her, as well as Sunak. She added that the government is “committed to publishing it soon,” but cautioned that the definition of soon, in this case, is relative.

Frazer explained that she has spent the past several weeks talking to industry insiders to glean information about operations. However, based on the official transcript of her speech, she appears to have spent most of her time talking to anti-gambling lobbyists.

In one comment, the DCMS boss asserted that “gambling doesn’t just destroy the lives of the gamblers themselves…” This and other remarks seem to lend credence to the belief that stricter regulations, including affordability checks, are coming.

While Frazer acknowledges that the white paper is “an absolute priority,” she stopped short of defining a timeframe for its release. Instead, she explained that she wants “to give these issues justice and take some time” to discuss them thoroughly.

The UK government will take a break at the end of this month and not return until May. While it’s possible that the white paper could make an appearance before then, there could be another delay.

Even if the government releases the white paper, it won’t be the final word. In addition to allowing feedback and input on the recommendations, Frazer made it clear in her comments that gambling reform will be a constant work in progress going forward.

Economic Uncertainty

A shift in the UK’s market has already begun and there are indications that things could get worse before they get better. Flutter’s recent financial health update is one possible indication. While it reported an increase in revenue, it also suffered a post-tax loss of £305 million (US$365.51 million) across all its operations.

The UK-based gaming company hyped its US performance, while downplaying its activity elsewhere. CEO Peter Jackson described operations outside the US as uncertain as they face “regulatory changes and challenging benchmarks.”

There has been talk of Flutter considering a listing on a US-based stock exchange, which would take its place behind its primary listing on the London Stock Exchange (LSE). However, according to the Financial Times, Jackson has also admitted that the US could become its primary listing.

This signals a change in how companies view the value of having a spot on the LSE and Flutter isn’t alone. CRH, one of the largest building materials companies in the world, is considering giving up its spot, following in the footsteps of UK-based Ferguson. The heating and plumbing supply company moved out last year.

Shell, the massive oil company, considered moving from the LSE to a US exchange, as well. SoftBank had been considering listing its Arm computer chip company in either the UK or the US and now decided that the US is the smartest option.

At a time when finding economic stability is a priority, clipping the gambling industry would be counterproductive. Amid economic uncertainty and inflation, and a shortage of tomatoes, disposable income becomes a premium for many consumers, including gamblers.

If gamblers have to contend with far-reaching rules that restrict their favorite pastime even more, the £7.1 billion (US$8.57 billion) the regulated gaming industry provides to the economy will see a huge reduction.

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