Plans to ban gambling companies sponsoring messy football shirts after Tories snap | Gambling

Ministers’ plans to reform Britain’s gambling laws were in disarray on Wednesday as disagreement emerged at the top of the Conservative Party over whether to ban football shirt sponsorship and impose a tax to fund addiction services.

Several sources said the process of finalizing a white paper on gambling reform had driven a wedge between departments and senior MPs, with the deadline for publication only weeks away.

The government should adopt measures including betting limits of between £2 and £5 on slots and online casino games, and accessibility controls to ensure punters do not descend into financial ruin .

Incentives, such as free bets or VIP benefits, are also likely to be prohibited for customers who lose heavily.

But MPs calling for tougher reform reacted angrily to a Times report that football teams would be allowed to continue displaying the logos of betting sponsors on their shirts and that – despite widespread support – there is no would have no mandatory levy to fund addiction research, education and treatment.

Sources familiar with the draft proposals insisted both changes could still go ahead, adding that talks with Premier League sides over sponsorship were “ongoing” and the levy could survive, although limited to online businesses rather than physical casinos and bookmakers.

However, the final decisions are the subject of frantic lobbying by senior Tories, before the publication of the white paper in mid-July. “The Treasury is opposed to both of these,” said an MP with knowledge of the ongoing row.

Exchequer officials fear tax levies will fall if the £11billion-a-year winnings of UK bettors are cut, the source said.

It puts No 11 at odds with the Department of Health, who reportedly favor a tax to fund NHS treatment, and Culture Minister Chris Philp, who is overseeing the reforms.

Another faction within the upper echelons of the party, including a minister, is also said to be ideologically opposed to imposing a “polluter pays” tax on gambling companies.

But Iain Duncan Smith – who has said he is ready to “go to war” with the government over the issue – urged ministers not to water down the reforms.

“If it’s correct and the government emasculates the white paper, it’s a bad move, we’ll see a lot of opposition,” said the former Tory leader, who co-chairs a cross-party group examining the harms of gambling.

https://t.co/J3zZTbsAIq

— Iain Duncan Smith MP (@MPIainDS) June 29, 2022n","url":"https://twitter.com/MPIainDS/status/1542111745136857089","id":"1542111745136857089","hasMedia":false,"role":"inline","isThirdPartyTracking":false,"source":"Twitter","elementId":"ae90a884-9dda-47a8-802a-e64661fdde59"}}'>

If it is correct, and the government emasculates the White Paper, it is a bad decision, we will see a lot of opposition. Gambling addiction is a serious problem with many people suffering damaged lives, families, individuals, and we need to address it urgently. https://t.co/J3zZTbsAIq

— MP Iain Duncan Smith (@MPIAinDS) June 29, 2022

The row has caused a further delay to proposals that were originally due out in late 2021.

Senior MPs, meanwhile, are making representations to political adviser No 10 David Canzini, with reform supporters believing they can still convince Boris Johnson to back a mandatory levy, replacing voluntary contributions from industry .

The levy is backed by industry regulator the Gambling Commission, which is expected to get more funding and powers in the white paper, and GambleAware, the charity which acts as a conduit for most of the money spent under the current voluntary system.

The row over gambling policy within the Conservative Party echoes the row over Fixed Odds Betting Terminals (FOBT), which led to the resignation of Sports Minister Tracey Crouch in 2018.

Stakes on digital roulette machines were eventually reduced from £100 to £2 after MPs across the House rallied to Crouch’s side, forcing the government to reverse the policy timetable.

Duncan Smith has been instrumental in the campaign to reduce FOBT issues and many of the measures they proposed in a 2019 report are expected to be included in the next white paper.

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A DCMS spokesperson said: “We are undertaking the most comprehensive review of gambling laws in 15 years to ensure they are fit for the digital age.

“We will publish a white paper as part of a review of gambling legislation in the coming weeks.”

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