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A charity has said it is “deeply concerned” about reports that the release of the long-awaited gambling White Paper is to be postponed again until after a new prime minister takes office.
Restrictions on the industry were expected to be announced within days as part of the review of the 2005 Gambling Act amid concerns current regulations require changes to accommodate the growth of online betting.
But advisers to Boris Johnson concluded that it could not be published until a new leader of the Conservative Party was elected to replace him as prime minister, the Guardian reported.
Responding to the reports, a Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) spokesman said: “We are undertaking the most comprehensive review of gambling laws in 15 years to ensure they are fit for the digital age.
“As we have said all along, we will be publishing a White Paper as part of a review of gambling legislation and are planning to do so as soon as possible.”
Zoe Osmond, chief executive of GambleAware, said: “We are deeply concerned by the risk of further delays to the gambling White Paper.
“Failure to act now puts more people at risk of gambling harms and only exacerbates what is an increasingly serious public health issue.
“We are concerned that the combination of the growing cost of living, ongoing impact of the pandemic and rise of online gambling may be creating a perfect storm, meaning more people are at risk of suffering gambling harm.
“We and our partner third sector organisations need a committed and consistent approach to funding. This would ensure future certainty and stability to provide support and treatment, prevent further gambling harm and make people aware of the risks of gambling harm.”
Campaigners had understood the White Paper would be released before the summer recess on July 21, and that it was undergoing a last “write-round” in which departments are informed of policy and are able to give feedback.
The Times previously reported proposals to prohibit gambling companies from shirt sponsorship were set to be rejected in favour of reaching a voluntary agreement with Premier League clubs, while also keeping the option of legislation in reserve.
The Government was also reportedly set to announce measures including online casinos having maximum stakes of between £2 and £5, a ban on free bets and VIP packages for those who incur heavy losses, as well as “non-intrusive” affordability checks, while the Gambling Commission would be granted new powers along with extra funding from increased fees paid by the industry.
The commission recently released figures showing online gambling was at its highest ever rate in the UK, with one in four Britons making wagers.
On Wednesday, the Government delayed the proposed Online Safety Bill’s progress through Parliament until a new prime minister is in place in the autumn.