Undaunted by Brexit and the accelerating pandemic, the UK government has its sights set firmly on reform of gambling laws in Great Britain.  

The Guardian reports that Boris Johnson and closest advisers are taking a hands-on approach to the upcoming review of gambling legislation, which is due to be launched within weeks. 

Downing Street looks set to introduce sweeping reforms which will royally flush away many of the liberalisations introduced by the Gambling Act 2005 under Tony Blair.  

Brief history

Readers will recall that the Blair government was determined to spread prosperity to the North of England and other parts of the country by building several new super casinos, and a 'crown jewel' super casino to be built in Manchester. 

However, when the chips were down, the public didn't want to bet that their struggling local economies would somehow be saved by the construction of massive super casinos. 

In 2007, at roughly the same time as the Gambling Act came into effect, plans for the Manchester super casino and several smaller 'super casinos' were axed. Even Blackpool's early hopes of getting its very own super casino were extinguished. 

In the end, only around three super casinos were built. They generated millions of pounds in revenue for the local authorities on whose patch they were built, but the lasting legacy of all this politicking was a lot of empty fanfare, not many casinos, and a conciliatory liberalisation of various gambling laws around Great Britain. 

That period of reform also opened the door to a surge in advertisements for gambling brands, products and services.

What has changed?

Reversing some of these liberalisations might appear to be a bold stance for a Conservative government (some might say 'courageous'). 

The revenues flowing directly and indirectly from the gambling industry into the government's coffers are significant. And that is not to mention the revenues flowing around the wider economy, as gambling brands sponsor sports teams, leagues, events, players, broadcasters, programmes and spend significant sums on advertising and marketing.  

But many in parliament have been calling for reform of gambling laws since the day they were introduced, questioning the logic and benefit of relaxing these laws. 

These campaigners for gambling reform have been increasingly vocal and powerful over the past decade or more. They are currently led by Labour MP Carolyn Harris, Sir Iain Duncan Smith and the SNP’s Ronnie Cowan, and are brought together under the banner of the all-party parliamentary group on gambling harm. 

The movement also has support in the House of Lords. A group of peers who favour gambling reform was set up with the no-nonsense name: Peers for Gambling Reform. The group includes 150 peers and has demanded "urgent action". 

The anti-gambling cavalry has arrived and the clippety-clop of their high horses is deafening. The PM simply cannot afford to ignore this issue.  

The chips are down

Officially, the review of existing gambling legislation is only just beginning, but only a very 'brave' person (credit: Sir Humphrey Appleby) would bet against an imminent and substantial tightening of gambling rules in the UK (both in-person and remote gambling), and restrictions on gambling advertising.  

It appears that the Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), under the watchful eye of the PM and his 'closest advisers', are determined to see a tightening of UK gambling rules, and chances are they won't hang about!

Recent research by Ipsos Mori prompted concerns around children and young adults (aged 11-24) being exposed to an increased volume of gambling ads during the lockdown, which is no doubt also influencing the debate around gambling advertising.

The only questions now are how extensive will these reforms be, and how quickly will they be introduced?

Gambling updates

Finally, if you're interested in other gambling related posts from the team at Lewis Silkin, you can find more of them here.