Blow to horse racing as Paul Scully, the gambling minister, moves in the government reshuffle.
With the announcement that gambling minister Paul Scully will be moving to a different department as part of prime minister Rishi Sunak’s reshuffle on Tuesday, the direction of the government’s gambling review, including controversial proposals regarding affordability checks, has been further thrown into question.
Because he had demonstrated a willingness to listen to the concerns of both industries, Scully’s departure will be a blow to both the racing and gambling industries. They will have hoped he would remain in his position.
If the gambling review is implemented, invasive affordability checks on bettors could wipe out tens of millions of pounds from the revenues of British racing, according to the sport’s leaders. However, Scully stated at the Betting and Gaming Council (BGC) annual meeting last month that ministers preferred “frictionless” checks rather than the government or the Gambling Commission deciding how much people could afford to gamble.
Michelle Donelan, who was ultimately in charge of the long-delayed gambling review, has been named secretary of state for science, technology, and innovation.
Scully, who had been the fifth person to hold the gambling brief since the government’s review was announced, is set to join her at the new department, according to the government. His replacement has not yet been announced.
Lucy Frazer, the Conservative MP for South East Cambridgeshire, has taken Donelan’s place at the streamlined DCMS. The appointment of Frazer will be viewed favorably for British racing. She is regarded as a sport supporter, and her constituents include the July course at Newmarket and the National Stud.
She joined fellow local MP Matt Hancock and Newmarket racing community members in opposing a 2,800-acre solar farm that could be next to the Limekilns training grounds in the previous year. In the past 13 years, Frazer will be the 12th individual appointed as culture secretary.
BGC chief executive Michael Dugher said: “We warmly welcome the new secretary of state to her position, even though we have had more ministers at DCMS than there are runners in the Grand National.
“We hope that she will listen to the millions of punters and other important voices in racing who have expressed their deep concern about blanket, intrusive and low-level so-called ‘affordability’ checks that only drive people to the unsafe unregulated black market online. These pose a massive threat to racing as a world-leading British sport, one that makes a huge contribution to our economy and national life.”
He added: “Millions of people enjoy a bet and the overwhelming majority do so perfectly responsibly and safely. The problem gambling rate is 0.3 per cent and low by international comparisons. Future changes to gambling should target problem gamblers and the vulnerable – and leave everybody else alone to choose how they spend their own hard-earned money and leisure time.”
Following the announcement of Frazer’s appointment, Labour MP Carolyn Harris, one of the most prominent advocates for gambling reform in parliament, tweeted: “One of her first tasks will be to publish the white paper on much-needed and long-overdue gambling legislation reform.”
Although an official announcement has not yet been made, the gambling and racing task appears to be staying at the DCMS and moving to one of the department’s other ministers, with sports minister Stuart Andrew being a likely candidate.
The government’s gambling review began in December 2020, but the specifics of its reform proposals have continued to be put off.
The white paper was anticipated to be available before the end of March, and Scully has stated that it will be available “in the coming weeks.” However, given that it had been anticipated that it would occur following the publication of government proposals to alter football regulation, additional delays may now occur.
The publication of that white paper, which had been anticipated for this week, has reportedly been postponed until at least the end of this month.
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