Political Change Provides Opportunity to Restore Confidence in Gambling Law Review | Horse racing news
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Wait continues for government white paper on gambling review
6:00 p.m., July 18, 2022
Dan Waugh of strategic consultancy Regulus Partners says the unrest offers an opportunity to revisit key ‘facts’
This week, the UK government may publish its long-awaited white paper on gambling reform. Or maybe not. Opinions are divided on whether the collapse of the Boris Johnson administration will further delay the process of legislative modernization.
Whatever happens, the arrival of a new Prime Minister, a new Gambling Minister and most likely a new Culture Secretary offers an opportunity to review the “facts” for policy Divine.
Earlier this year in this column I wrote about the problems with some of the evidence submitted for review and in particular, Public Health England’s (PHE) social and economic cost estimate.
PHE alleged that harm associated with gambling was an annual cost to society of £1.27billion – and also claimed that more than 400 suicide deaths each year were “associated with problem gambling alone”.
As a number of observers, including Christopher Snowdon of the Institute of Economic Affairs, have explained, these estimates are deeply problematic. The PHE report is based on opaque calculations; inappropriate extrapolations from Sweden and Canada to estimate damage in England; highly selective use of data; and the marginalization of the warnings of the very researchers whose work he co-opted.
Awareness is beginning to grow that the “irrefutable gun” of public health evidence may in fact have been filled with blanks. At the same time, however, there has been a closing of ranks and increasing obfuscation by the political-regulatory establishment.
Last month, for example, the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) rejected a Freedom of Information Act request to make public the mathematical calculations used by PHE to derive its cost estimates (including including the number of suicides).
The DHSC asserted that “adapting and formatting our analysis for external use…would involve considerable time above the threshold”; and that “the cost of such work would exceed the appropriate limit”.
It was a curious statement for a number of reasons. The first is the implication that PHE’s calculations are based on such obscure methodology that they require lengthy adaptation in order to be published.
Second, there is the suggestion that the provenance of evidence from a state agency to a major government review is not significant enough to warrant disclosure.
Third, there is the effective admission that few if any of the public figures who quoted PHE cost estimates (including the former Minister, Chris Philp MP) actually know whether they are mathematically sound.
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Scott Benton: MP for Blackpool South
Last month, Conservative MP for Blackpool South Scott Benton submitted parliamentary questions, also asking for the PHE calculations to be released. The DHSC was due to have responded by June 21 – but no response has been received and Mr Benton is still waiting.
The market regulator has been equally opaque. In response to a separate set of requests under the Freedom of Information Act, the Gambling Commission at least released copies of emails between its officers and PHE. The correspondence was both heavily redacted and curiously brief.
In particular, he gave no indication that PHE had shared its report with the regulator before it was published.
This seems implausible for a number of reasons, including the fact that the commission chose to endorse the PHE findings at the time of publication and in the PHE press release.
This begs the question of whether the regulator had even read – let alone verified – the claims in a report it hailed as both “material” and “independent”; and also whether its freedom of information disclosures were in fact comprehensive.
The refusal of government departments and state agencies to be transparent is important for a number of reasons (apart from simple faith in our democracy).
First, the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport said the PHE report is “an important contribution to our review of the Gambling Act 2005” (a position that new Minister Damian Collins, would do well to check for himself).
Second, the Office for Health Improvement and Disparities (which subsumed the research team when PHE disbanded) is now preparing to release a follow-up report and DHSC has pledged to “take action in response” to its findings.
This “Delphi study” – which collects the views of an underground group of “experts” and “experienced experts” – will address the question of what the government should do to meet the costs identified by PHE.
The scope of the “Delphi Study” includes measures “to make gambling products less affordable and less attractive to gambling operators and consumers”; marketing and advertising restraints “to reduce exposure to gaming products and related services”; and “measures to restrict access to gambling opportunities”.
Those looking for clues as to what all of this could mean can find them in an earlier state-funded research project from the University of Sheffield, carried out between 2019 and 2021.
The Sheffield researchers concluded that evidence on the effectiveness of the interventions “remains sparse and weak” and that they had “struggled to make conclusive statements”.
Nonetheless, they argued, it was “imperative…that the paucity of evidence not be used as a justification for inaction” – doubling down on a priori proposals for tax increases and increased restrictions on marketing and advertising. publicity which could have significant consequences for the races.
The issue of evidence in the gambling law review is not its scarcity but rather its reliability – particularly with regard to the testimony of state agencies.
If the government is serious about restoring trust, now would be a good time to come clean about the Public Health England report.
Coral and Goodwood enter into partnership
Edward Whitaker (racingpost.com/photos)
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Goodwood: The track will have a new business relationship with Coral
Edward Whitaker (racingpost.com/photos)
Goodwood Racecourse and Coral have announced a new commercial relationship under which the bookmaker becomes the official fixed odds betting partner of the Qatar Goodwood Festival for the next three years.
As part of this partnership, Coral will sponsor ten races over the five days of the meeting, including the Coral Golden Mile and the Coral Stewards’ Cup.
Coral’s public relations director, Simon Clare, said: “Coral is the most committed and long-standing sponsor of British racing and by launching this exciting new partnership with Goodwood Racecourse we are strengthening our association with the sport. .”
The long-running takeover saga surrounding gaming technology company Playtech has come to an end with the news that Hong Kong-based TTB Partners will not make a bid.
TTB, which is a shareholder of Playtech, said it made the decision due to “difficult underlying conditions”, although it remains “support for the board, the management team, their strategy for Playtech and business prospects”.
Playtech Chief Executive Mor Weizer said: “We remain confident in our long-term growth prospects and, in particular, our ability to benefit from the structured agreements that already allow Playtech to access the gaming markets. ‘newly opened money.’
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