As predicted, there was no mention of gambling in the Queen's Speech on 11 May 2022. The long-awaited white paper containing Government proposals to reform gambling laws has still not surfaced and may not emerge until June, or even July.
When it does, as we anticipated in our article 'UK Gambling Act Review: What happens next?' on 1 April 2021, it is highly unlikely to include draft legislation. Instead, we expect it to outline areas on which the Government intends to legislate and seek further feedback from relevant stakeholders in advance of drafting legislation.
The Queen's Speech sets out those bills which the Government intends to introduce in Parliament during the following twelve months. Accordingly, any primary legislation arising out of the Gambling Act review is unlikely to be laid before Parliament until after the Queen's Speech in 2023 at the earliest. Any primary legislation proposed at that time would be unlikely to come into force until around at least Q1 2024, just ahead of the likely date for the next General Election. If the proposals are not considered sufficiently voter-friendly, they could easily be delayed further until after the General Election.
Although the Government reserves the right to introduce legislation outside of the Queen's Speech if it considers it appropriate to do so, our view is that this is highly unlikely to happen. There were 38 bills in the 2022 Queen's Speech (an extraordinary number) and many of them sit within the remit of DCMS (one of the smallest departments of State). In short, DCMS is committed to dealing with a significant number of other pressing matters including the proposed privatisation of Channel 4, the Digital Markets, Competition and Consumer Bill and associated Digital Markets Unit, the Online Safety Bill and the proposed Independent Football Regulator. A lack of bandwidth is likely to be a contributor to the delayed white paper.
The Gambling Act review remains somewhat of a hot potato and political appetite may be waning. Perhaps the looming threat of (as yet, unspecified) legislative change is considered to be more potent at delivering significant industry change and there is, of course, a lot that can be achieved without primary legislation.
In the next twelve to eighteen months, secondary legislation could be introduced and the Gambling Commission may introduce further changes to the Licence Conditions and Codes of Practice (LCCP). For example, it appears that the Gambling Commission still intends to launch a further consultation on identifying customers that are financially vulnerable and tackling significant unaffordable gambling. If the consultation is launched within the next three months, it would be likely to remain open for around three months and any proposed changes identified in the response would (based on previous consultations) be likely to have an implementation period of between three to six months. Therefore, further changes to the LCCP in relation to customer interaction or, more specifically, affordability, could come into effect within the next twelve months.
The Gambling Commission has also stated that it will continue its broader programmes of work, focused on identifying customers at risk of harm, which includes close engagement with the Betting and Gaming Council (BGC) and Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) on the ‘single customer view’ pilot scheme.
It is possible (and perhaps even probable) that primary legislation in some form will be introduced in due course, but for the moment perhaps self-regulation, fortified by ongoing regulatory enforcement action by the Gambling Commission, is considered sufficient alongside continued efforts by the Gambling Commission in relation to affordability.
We are continuing to monitor the Gambling Act review and associated matters closely and will publish further updates in due course. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact any of the authors or your usual contact at DRD Partnership or in the Mishcon de Reya Betting & Gaming team.