What does the appointment of Michelle Donelan as new Culture Secretary mean for the Gambling Review?

The big question this week, other than what to back at Doncaster, is what does the appointment of supporter of gambling reform Michelle Donelan as the new Culture Secretary mean for gamblers and the gambling industry. The MP for Chippenham has spoken of her support for reform of the sector in the past and in 2018 supported the reduction of stakes on gaming machines in betting shops saying it addressed an issue which had "destroyed far too many lives". She has also described Gambling Advertising as "preying on the vulnerable".  

Outgoing Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries was said to be a supporter of tough reforms of gambling regulation and it looks as though her successor is of similar mind. That Ms Donelan holds the distinction of being the shortest-serving Cabinet member in British history, resigning from her role as education secretary within 36-hours of her appointment by Boris Johnson so she might not be around long enough to make a difference.

The Gambling Review was launched back in December 2020 and to say it has dragged on a bit is an understatement; this new appointment will no doubt delay the release of any findings further still.  

My, and many other people's biggest concern, remains the affordability checks for punters. Affordability checks are set to be among the proposals contained in the white paper and apparently include what have been described as 'passive' background checks once a punter records a net loss of £125 a month. I can do that on a day at the big meetings easily but go into those meetings with a bank to play with and generally come out winning in the end. Other thresholds for the ‘passive’ checks to kick-in reportedly include losing £500 in a year (that’s less than a tenner a week) with in-depth checks triggered by a £2,000 loss over 90 days (£22.22 a day).  

It is said the checks will not apply to betting in Bookmakers shops or at Racecourses but I know of a number of Betting Shop staff who are being trained in approaching gamblers they feel are gambling too much – and know of instances when it has not been welcomed by the gambler to say the least.

I cannot see how the people working on this review can expect punters to hand over any information, let alone detailed, about their home lives, income and outgoings simply to have a bet? Where do you stop?  

Someone in Waitrose with a few quid’s worth of Sea Bream Fillets in their basket having to be able to show they can afford them or be packed off to Iceland to get some Fish Fingers instead!  

Fancy a night out with the love of your life giving them a little treat? Not if you’re not prepared for several credit checks and being barred from visiting any restaurant again for 90 days afterwards because some bean counter somewhere says your gross income before tax suggests you cannot afford a Crème Brûlée!

You can of course walk into your local corner shop and purchase as much booze and as many fags as you like without anyone giving two hoots!  

I appreciate gambling can be a problem for some, but so can alcohol, cigarettes, over eating, bulimia, addiction to painkillers, porn the list goes on. You can’t impose restrictions on all to help a few. One of the leading addictions in the world today is Internet Addiction defined as people spending excessive amounts of time online prioritising internet usage over their families, friends, careers, studies and other activities. My apologies if this content is fuelling your addiction but other than adding some sort of timer to the site to cut you off after five-minutes there aint much I can do.  

I, like many of you no doubt, wait to see what the future holds for us punters. It might be time to close those online accounts and get back to the old school slapping round the shops on a Saturday morning to grab the early prices.  

Be lucky