New Culture Secretary should target 'stability'
The Remote Gambling Association (RGA) has called for a period of calm in the UK’s gambling industry after the appointment of Jeremy Wright as the new Culture Secretary.
Former Attorney General Wright (pictured) replaces Matt Hancock, who has become Health Secretary after just six months in the job. He will now lead the department responsible for gambling and sport, with Tracey Crouch remaining Minister for Sport, a post she has held since 2015.
Wright assumes the office three months after Hancock and Crouch announced maximum stakes on FOBTs are to be reduced from £100 to £2 “to reduce the risk of gambling-related harm”. The announcement came after the completion of the Triennial Review that has involved government, the Gambling Commission and interested parties from across the gambling industry.
Speaking after Wright’s appointment, Clive Hawkswood, of the RGA, told iGamingBusiness.com: “After the protracted debate around FOBTs and the Triennial review process, I think the wider industry really needs a period of stability, so I’d suggest it could be counter-productive for anyone to rush forward with a shopping list of issues they might like him to consider.”
The Association of British Bookmakers (ABB) told iGamingBusiness.com that it hopes to work with Wright as his department implements the introduction of the FOBT maximum stake reduction, which the group has previously estimated could lead to 4,000 shop closures and 21,000 job losses.
The ABB said: "We look forward to working with the new Secretary of State, Jeremy Wright QC, MP to ensure a sustainable and responsible retail betting industry.
"Betting shops are facing a massive threat as the new maximum stake on gaming machines will result in thousands of shop closures, job losses and significant economic consequences for horse and greyhound racing. It is vital that we work with the Secretary of State and his department to mitigate these impacts where possible and ensure that betting shops remain one of the safest environments in which to gamble in the UK."
The ABB this week told iGamingBusiness.com about some of the pressures that the industry will face in the next two years.
An ABB spokesperson said: “While the implementation timeframe is a matter for the government, an appropriate timeframe would enable staff redeployment where possible, the introduction of voluntary redundancy schemes, the renegotiation of shop leases and the termination of contracts with many local suppliers in an orderly way.
“In addition software changes to the architecture of over 200 games will be made. This process will also require each game to be independently verified.
“Those shops that survive will continue to provide a safe place to gamble with staff interaction and industry leading responsible gambling measures and to support British sport.”