Chris Philp, the UK minister responsible for gambling, announced his resignation from his appointed office today, protesting the leadership of PM Boris Johnson. The Minister for Tech and Digital was in charge of overseeing the government’s review of the 2005 Gambling Act. His decision took place before Johnson announced his own resignation hours later. The move could delay the upcoming White Paper, although Philp himself said the review is already waiting for "final approval" at the Prime Minister's Office.
Philp’s decision was not an isolated event, as Johnson had been hit with a tidal wave of resignations over the past two days. As reported by The Telegraph, Philp informed the Prime Minister upon vacating his position: “Given events over the past few weeks and months I therefore think that you should resign as Prime Minister and it follows that I cannot serve in your Government any longer." Philp had taken over as Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) with responsibility for gambling last September.
His resignation means that the publication of the Gambling Act review White Paper could be further delayed, as the government faces a reorganization process. However, the minister said in his resignation letter that the gambling review "is with No 10 [Prime Minister's Office] at the moment for final approval, containing strong measures to protect people from gambling addiction."
The conclusion of the Gambling Act review, which would put an end to a 20-month-long legislative process and provide closure to gaming stakeholders and reformists alike, has been repeatedly delayed. It was initially expected in the spring, and was pushed for later this month.
The DCMS was also expected to make a decision this month regarding betting shirt sponsorships in Premier League football as part of the review, with the outcome scheduled for July 21.
It was suggested in a report that Nigel Huddleston MP, who is also a DCMS undersecretary, has asserted that the White Paper is still expected to come out “in the coming weeks,” despite Philp’s resignation.
During his tenure as Gambling Minister, Philp gave the industry a preview of what to expect from the review, with a particular emphasis placed on a Single Customer View and increased use of data and technology for player protection.
On the issue of affordability, the Minister insisted on the fact that, while some checks would be implemented, he dismissed the notion of £100 ($119) loss limits during GambleAware’s 9th annual conference in December 2021.
This week, Philp was questioned by a DCMS oversight committee on the government’s gambling agenda, triggered by the impatience generated by the delay in the White Paper publication.
The Croydon South MP backed the UKGC’s leadership overhaul, affordability measures and cited confidence that DCMS would win Camelot’s £600 million ($718 million) lawsuit against the decision to award the National Lottery’s operating license to Allwyn UK.
With Philp being one of over 50 MPs calling for Johnson’s resignation after a series of scandals and controversies, the Prime Minister vacated his post today but asked to stay in office until a replacement is appointed.
White Paper's direction so far
Before presenting his resignation, Philp gave a new indication this week that online casinos and slots would be in the spotlight in the White Paper, and added that they are among the games that "worried him the most."
He also spoke about gambling harms posed by lotteries, including instant games, and cited a 2018 health survey for England which suggested problem gambling rates were about 0.9% for draw-based games, and 1.4% for scratchcards. He described these as being minor issues.
Ministers are reportedly considering many strategies to tackle problem gambling driven by online gaming, such as allowing maximum stakes of between £2 ($2,43) and £5 ($6,08) for online casinos, as well as a ban on free bets.
Gaming companies could also be required to remove features from online games that increase the level of risk for customers, such as quick games. They may also have to implement “affordability checks” to show how much users can safely spend, people familiar with the matter told local media. Meanwhile, the UK Gambling Commission would be granted new powers along with extra funding from increased fees paid by the industry.