Proposals to reform gambling laws have been postponed for a fourth time, after advisers to Boris Johnson concluded it could not be published until a new leader of the Conservative party is elected to replace him as prime minister.
Amid a tussle between different Tory party factions over the content of the plans, multiple Whitehall sources told the Guardian that a white paper had been added this week to the government’s “grid” of announcements and was scheduled to be published on Tuesday.
But senior Downing Street officials, including Johnson’s adviser David Canzini, are understood to have told him that he could not publish it as it would require legislation from his successor.
On Wednesday ministers dropped plans to push through an online safety bill next week on similar grounds, leading to allegations of a vacuum at the heart of government.
It is the fourth time that the gambling white paper, the culmination of a review announced in 2019, has been shelved.
The delay means proposals will not be published until a new Tory leader is elected in September, at the earliest, and will be seen as a blow to those pushing for tougher reforms, including the former Conservative leader Iain Duncan Smith.
“I’m very sorry that this is the case because we worked hard to get this done,” said Duncan Smith. “It wasn’t perfect, but I’d have accepted it where it is now because it’s an advance on where we’ve been.”
“A white paper has to be linked to legislation and a caretaker government can’t do the legislation.”
Duncan Smith is backing Liz Truss to lead the Conservative party and said she was “keen to do something” on gambling, but “I don’t know about Rishi [Sunak]” – referring to the former chancellor and current leadership race frontrunner.
“The Treasury has pushed back on any of these changes so far and I’ve not talked to the others, who haven’t expressed a strong view,” Duncan Smith added.
He said that whoever became prime minister would “find me sitting on the couch in their study until they do it”.
Last week, the Guardian reported that MPs, including Duncan Smith, were planning to voice concerns about alleged ties between the gambling industry and Canzini and a fellow adviser, Andrew Griffith.
The gambling white paper falls under the auspices of the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport. Damian Collins is the minister in charge of both technology and gambling at the department, after the departure of Chris Philp, a former Johnson loyalist who oversaw the white paper but was among the ministers whose resignation helped force the prime minister to stand down.
July 14, 2022 at 09:26PM Rob Davies