How Will Boris Johnson’s Exit Impact White Paper on UK Gambling Reform?

  • UK PM Boris Johnson has announced he will step down after a number of MP resignations
  • The MP leading the gambling review also resigned, leaving it with No.10 “for final approval”
  • A power struggle will undoubtedly delay publication, which was expected in “the coming weeks”
  • Johnson’s resignation could also benefit reform opposers who want to block the white paper
Downing Street door open
UK PM Boris Johnson is leaving Downing Street, and that could have some important implications for an upcoming white paper on gambling reform. [Image: Shutterstock.com]

PM waves goodbye

Despite his desperate efforts to cling above the precipice of obscurity, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has finally lost his grip. His ministers have resigned in their droves this week disillusioned by yet another political scandal. Now, faced with countless dissenters, Johnson has finally agreed to give up his Downing Street residency.

Tories will have their chance to compete for the ultimate prize

His exit will undoubtedly create a power vacuum at the top of the Conservative party. Vultures have circled above Johnson’s head ever since the ‘Partygate’ scandal earlier this year, and now Tories will have their chance to compete for the ultimate prize. According to the betting odds, Rishi Sunak and Penny Mourdant are both favorites to take the role.

The current political turmoil in the UK will have an effect on all aspects of government policy, not least the upcoming white paper on gambling reform. According to a Westminster source, the bill was due for release “in the coming weeks.” However, its publication will face a string of challenges as the battle for power rages.

Leading MP resigns

The resignation of Minister for Tech and the Digital Economy Chris Philp has put a major spanner in the works for gambling reform. Philp, who was responsible for gambling regulation, decided to step down early on Thursday morning just prior to the PM’s announcement.

In his resignation letter, he noted the importance of the white paper. “The gambling review is with No. 10 at the moment for final approval, containing strong measures to protect people from the ravages of gambling addiction,” Philp wrote, adding that he hoped the PM would deliver the review “in full and undiluted.”

For Philp to get his wish, the PM will have to green-light the reform before the UK Parliament’s summer recess due to start on July 22. If it doesn’t pass before then, the proposals will have to appear in the autumn instead. Proponents launched the gambling review all the way back in December 2020.

some hope that he could pass the white paper before his exit

The PM has announced he will remain in power until the autumn, which provides some hope that he could pass the white paper before his exit. That said, an upcoming leadership contest will likely muddy the water somewhat, the timetable for which the PM will reveal next week. Along with opposition from certain MPs, this may see gambling reform take a backseat.

Music to the ears of some

Any added delays to the white paper publication will only benefit the efforts of those trying to block it. Reports last week suggested that Minister for Government Efficiency Jacob Rees-Mogg has positioned himself in this camp, deeming the review an unnecessary “nanny state” intervention. Government sources have already suggested he is attempting to slow its progress by requesting clarification on details.

Added to this, MPs have already complained of a “watered down” version of the report. This is something evident in a confirmed compromise over a ban on front-of-shirt sponsorship deals between gambling companies and English Premier League teams. Ministers have reportedly axed those plans, instead allowing the teams to phase out sponsorship over the next few years.

Among the other measures rumored to be included within the white paper are a reduction of online casino stake sizes and the introduction of stricter affordability assessments for gamblers. MPs also want a ban on free wagers and VIP packages for high rollers.

As the Tory power struggle ensues, no doubt Rees-Mogg and his like-minded peers will attempt to maneuver gambling reform to the bottom of the to-do list. As Philp made clear, it’s up to whoever takes up residence in Downing Street next to ensure that it does eventually make it over the line. For now, gambling operators, anti-gambling groups, and customers must wait in limbo.