March 3, 2021 written by

Whittingdale new head of the Gambling Act review

Member of Parliament John Whittingdale will be taking on the role of overseeing the Gambling Act review.

Whittingdale is the Minister for Media and Data in the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS). 

He has been Member of Parliament for Maldon since 1992 and his previous functions included serving as chair of the Culture, Media and Sport Committee from 2005 until 2015, and as Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport between May 2015 and July 2016. Whittingdale became Minister of State for Media and Data in February last year.

His parliamentary record shows that he has taken a fairly liberal stance on the gambling industry so far, having voted against a number of suggested regulation laws. In 2014, he voted against giving local councils the powers to limit the number of fixed-odds betting terminals (FOBTs) and betting shops in their districts.

Additionally, has voted to increase the stake and prize limits of certain categories of gambling machine, and in 2013 voted not to require gambling operators to ban players who had registered for self-exclusion.

Interesting moves for somebody now in charge of reviewing and modernising the 2005 Gambling Act—a task, in part, intended to modernise safety standards. This clear line of evidence might mean he is willing to take a pragmatic approach, placing responsibility in the hands of players rather than imposing crippling restrictions on operators. 

Last month, Kindred Group, one of the UK’s largest betting operators announced 94% of its revenue comes from safe gameplay

Betting and Gaming Council (BGC) chief executive Michael Dugher has congratulated Whittingdale on his new appointment, saying: “I’d like to welcome John Whittingdale to his expanded role and enhanced responsibilities at DCMS.”

Dugher pointed out that it is an uncertain time for those who work in the industry and said that the industry wants to play its part in helping kickstart the UK economy, support jobs and growth and contribute to the exchequer.

The DCMS officially launched the long-awaited review of the 2005 Gambling Act in December last year, with stake limits, the role of the Gambling Commission and new ad restrictions to be considered. 

The department launched a call for evidence at that time, looking into stake and spend limits, new rules around advertising and bonusing, and additional protections for younger adults. 

Action has already been taken, with the raising of the minimum age players can participate in the National Lottery to 18 at the end of last year. The call for evidence will run until 31 March 2021 and its findings will inform planned changes to the 2005 Act.

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