UK Gambling Reform Has a New Boss, but No Time Line Yet for Changes

Now that Liz Truss has officially taken over as the prime minister of the UK, she’s cleaning house. As a result, there’s a new Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), the body overseeing the country’s gambling reform. But this doesn’t necessarily mean change is going to come quickly.

Michelle Donelan, the new Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, poses for a picture. She will take over a review of gambling reform in the UK, but when she might present the new rules is still unclear. (Image: The New Statesman)

Gambling reform in the UK has been in the works for several years. The final white paper on the topic was coming this month, but that was before the government began to fall apart. As Truss tries to put the house in order, gambling reform remains at the forefront.

The new PM only took office yesterday, leading to the departure of a number of government officials. One of these is the former Secretary of the DCMS, Nadine Dorries, who made a statement by resigning before Truss took over.

A New Era For Gambling

Truss had hoped Dorries would continue in the role she had held since this time last year, but she apparently has other plans. As a result, as she was walking out the door, Michelle Donelan was walking in.

Donelan assumes the role following government positions overseeing education. She was the Minister of State for Higher and Further Education from September 2021 to this past July. Then, Donelan became the Secretary of State for Education for what may be a new record for the shortest term.

Nadhim Zahawi, a cofounder of YouGov, held the latter position from September 2021 to July 5, 2022. He resigned after his appointment as Chancellor of the Exchequer when that position’s former occupant, Rishi Sunak, resigned. Sunak had once been a front-runner to be the next PM of the UK.

Donelan took over for Zahawi as the Secretary of State for Education, but only for two days, departing on July 7. The seven-year veteran MP, along with more than 50 other ministers, resigned in the wake of the scandal former PM Johnson was leaving.

The new head of the DCMS, who once had a stint in the marketing department of World Wrestling Entertainment, is an avid supporter of gambling reform. She has stated in the past that gambling has “destroyed far too many lives,” and that it preys on the vulnerable. This might mean that she decides to move quickly on tackling the white paper.

Donelan will work with an almost entirely new ministerial cabinet going forward. Truss pushed out virtually everyone who worked for Johnson. As a result, for the first time in the history of the UK, there is no white male serving in any of the top four government positions – prime minister, chancellor and home and foreign secretaries. That’s a significant moment in a country where more than 78% of the population identifies as white.

BGC Sends Its Regards

The Betting and Gaming Council (BGC) didn’t waste time welcoming Donelan back to the political family. CEO Michael Dugher congratulated her on the appointment, and added that it was “well-deserved,” according to a BGC statement.

Dugher reminded Donelan that the organization, which represents the vast majority of retail and online gambling activity in the UK, has played an important role in gambling reform. He highlighted the interaction the BGC has had with the DCMS to shape policy. Going forward, he hopes to continue the same with the new DCMS boss.

The All-Party Parliamentary Group for Gambling Related Harm sent its regards as well. It said on Twitter that there have been enough delays to gambling reform, and that it’s time for action.

The gaming industry will be closely watching Donelan over the next few days. As she sinks into the new position, they will learn what she has on the agenda.

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