Election manifestos leave UK gambling in the cold

The Labour Party has pledged to complete the outstanding affairs of the Gambling Review, needed to deliver the new terms of play for UK gambling.

Yesterday, the Party published its 2024 General Election Manifesto titled ‘Change’, promising an ambitious programme to return economic productivity and wealth generation to the UK.

Headline policies see Labour seeking to build 1.5 million new homes, reduce net migration, and cut down NHS waiting lists by adding an additional 40,000 appointments every week.

Within the 136-page document, just one paragraph was reserved for UK gambling, under the manifesto’s pledge to ‘Build an NHS for the future’ citing: “Labour is committed to reducing gambling-related harm. Recognising the evolution of the gambling landscape since 2005, Labour will reform gambling regulation, strengthening protections. We will continue to work with the industry on how to ensure responsible gambling.”

The commitment represents a repeat of prior reporting and statements by Labour politicians who promised to continue the work of gambling reform laid out in the April 2023 white paper.

The government will likely play a very limited role in the measures out for consultation at the Gambling Commission, including planned affordability checks, usually considered the most controversial of the government’s proposals.

Industry experts have expressed mixed reactions to Labour’s plans. While some praise the party for recognising the need for updated gambling regulations, others are concerned about the lack of detail and the potential for further delays.

The white paper introduced by the Conservatives aimed to modernize the 2005 Gambling Act to better address the digital age, and many in the industry were hopeful that these reforms would be implemented swiftly – which has simply not been the case.

With a change in leadership, the future of these reforms remains uncertain, despite all parties’ committed to reform UK gambling.

Labour’s manifesto mentions a commitment to working with the industry to ensure responsible gambling, but specifics on how this will be achieved are sparse. The focus appears to be more on broader economic and social issues, leaving some stakeholders in the gambling sector feeling overlooked.

The Conservative Party, on the other hand, did not mention gambling in their manifesto, leading to further speculation about the future of the proposed reforms.

Rishi Sunak’s surprise election call has added to the uncertainty, with some fearing that the gambling review could be pushed down the list of priorities.

Other political parties have also varied in their approach to gambling reform. The Liberal Democrats have outlined plans for effective affordability checks and measures to reduce black market activity, while the Green Party has not addressed the issue in their manifesto.

As the election draws closer, the gambling industry remains in a state of limbo, awaiting clear direction from the next government.

The outcome of the election will be crucial in determining the future of gambling regulation in the UK, with many hoping for a balanced approach that addresses the risks associated with gambling while allowing the industry to thrive responsibly.