Government reshuffle could benefit UK gambling sector

9 January 2018

UK Prime Minister Theresa May yesterday (Monday) appointed Matt Hancock as Culture Secretary in a move that could favour the British gambling industry.

In his new role, Hancock will lead the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), as well as assume responsibility for horseracing and gambling.

According to the Racing Post, Hancock will also oversee the completion of the reform of the levy in the UK, and his previous activity related to gambling may serve as an indication as to what the market can expect.

In 2012, Hancock introduced the Offshore Gambling Bill, a private members’ bill that set out plan to amend the 2005 Gambling Act to “provide that all relevant operators contribute to the Horserace Betting Levy”.

Although the bill did not make it into law at the time, the proposals included in the bill offer an insight as to how Hancock, whose parliamentary constituency includes Newmarket Racecourse, may approach the reform.

Rachel Hood, former president of the Racehorse Owners Association, said that Hancock played a major role in pushing the government to look at a reform of the current levy system.

Paul Darling, chairman of the Association of British Bookmakers, also spoke out in favour of the appointment: “Hancock has a full understanding of the industry and its dynamics and we look forward to working with him.”

Aside from the levy, Hancock looks set to play a major role in the ongoing DCMS consultation into the government's review of the entire gambling sector, which includes plans to reduce the maximum stake on fixed-odds betting terminals (FOBTs).

However, despite the confirmation of Hancock’s appointment, there is yet to be any clarification as to whether Tracey Crouch will retain her role as Minister for Sport and Civil Society within the government.

Crouch’s brief also include gambling and she has played a key role in the ongoing consultation and preceding processes.

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