Stuart Andrew steps down as gambling minister

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Prime Minister Rishi Sunak announced the 4 July general election last week. Yesterday (29 May), Andrew took to X – formerly known as Twitter – to confirm that he would no longer be a member of parliament.

“As of midnight tonight, parliament will dissolve and there will be no members of parliament until after the general election,” he wrote. “As the constituency of Pudsey, Horsforth and Aireborough will no longer exist at this point, I am no longer a member of parliament.

“All the very best for the future to all of my former constituents.”

As of midnight tonight, Parliament will dissolve and there will be no Members of Parliament until after the General Election. As the constituency of Pudsey, Horsforth and Aireborough will no longer exist at this point, I am no longer a Member of Parliament.

— Stuart Andrew (@StuartAndrew) May 29, 2024

Andrew was the Conservative MP for Pudsey. He was also the parliamentary under secretary of state for sport, gambling and civil society, as well as the minister for equalities.

The dissolving of parliament means that Andrew no longer holds the role of gambling minister. He was appointed to the role in March 2023, one month before the long-awaited Gambling Act review white paper was released. Andrew was the sixth minister appointed to oversee the review.

He succeeded Paul Scully, who was revealed to be the fifth minister appointed in October 2022. Prior to Scully was Damian Collins, who was preceded by Chris Philp. The first gambling minister – Nigel Huddleston – served in the role between 2018 and 2021 before being replaced by John Whittingdale.

Affordability checks top priority

With the process of implementing the Gambling Act review well under way, it is unlikely that the absence of a dedicated gambling minister will have much effect.

Progress in this area has ramped up in the last month, with both the GB Gambling Commission and the department for culture, media and sport (DCMS) making strides in their allotted policies. Certain aspects of the review are under the management of the Commission, while others require parliamentary legislation to pass.

At the beginning of May, the Commission outlined the next steps for some of the white paper’s most pressing policies – affordability checks, online games design, optimising consumer choice on direct marketing and improving age verification for land-based operations. These proposals were debated in the Commission’s first consultation round last summer.

The most talked-about aspect of this update was the announcement of an affordability checks pilot. The pilot is set to last for six months. The Commission stressed that customers would not be impacted by the trial and it would only be rolled out when the process of data-sharing is frictionless for a  “vast majority” of customers subject to checks.

Tim Miller, the Commission’s executive director, confirmed that an affordability checks pilot scheme was imminent in February.

Alongside the pilot, the Commission announced “light-touch” financial vulnerability checks. This will be implemented in two stages – firstly in August 2024 and then in February 2025.

White paper policies barrelling ahead regardless

As for the remaining three policies, the Commission announced that a number of games’ features are set to be banned from 17 January 2025. These include features that give the illusion of control, such as “turbo” and “slam stops”, autoplay and spin speeds under five seconds.

All land-based licence holders will also have to comply with tighter rules on age verification. Finally, all gambling companies will have to provide customers with the option to opt-in on which games types they would like to receive direct marketing on, as well as which channels.

Two weeks later, DCMS announced a host of new land-based rules stemming from the white paper. However, the reform in this area was also brought about by the ‘Smarter Regulation to Grow the Economy’ policy document, which was released in May 2023.

The DCMS announcement proposed five policies for implementation. The first is abolishing the ban on using debit cards on gaming machines, which will be enacted in relation to applicable player protection rules.

Under the proposals, a 2:1 ratio of Category B to Category C and D gaming machines will also be permitted in bingo halls and arcades. Casinos under the 1968 Act will also be allowed to increase their number of gaming machines to 80, if they meet the sizing rules of Small 2005 Act casino.

In addition, there will be an 18-or-over age limit for low stake Category D slot-style machines that pay out cash. Licensing fees for maximum chargeable premises will also be raised by 15%.

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