The UK government’s gambling white paper has caused controversy not for its proposals, but for leaving much to be defined through further consultations, as criticized by members of the House of Lords.
In an exchange with parliamentary under-secretary of state Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay, several peers expressed support for the white paper’s provisions but lamented the “hurry up and wait” approach.
Former Select Committee on gambling harms chairman Lord Grade of Yarmouth welcomed the white paper’s direction but raised concerns about the time it would take for further consultations, given the 60,000 responses already received prior to its publication. He compared the situation to the “hurry up and wait” adage in the film industry, where everyone is ready to proceed, but nothing happens.
Parkinson defended the decision to hold additional consultations, stating that it was part of the government’s responsibility to follow due process. He also explained that the consultations would reduce the likelihood of legal challenges, which would only lead to further delays and frustrations. He added that the white paper provided clear strategic direction, but the consultations now focus on the practical aspects of implementing the proposals.
Lord Foster, chair of Peers for Gambling Reform, criticized the white paper for its lack of controls on gambling advertising. He pointed out that research clearly shows advertising leads to increased gambling, and questioned why the industry would spend £1.5bn a year on marketing if not to boost profits. Lord Foster also noted that other countries have taken steps to ban or restrict gambling advertising, and suggested that the majority of the British public would support similar measures.
In response, Parkinson defended the white paper’s proposed actions, highlighting the issue of advertising in sports. He explained that sports bodies are working on a cross-sport code of conduct to improve standards for gambling sponsorship across the sector. Parkinson acknowledged that more work needs to be done, but stated that the white paper contains details on the issue.