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Racing Industry: Gambling

Volume 708: debated on Thursday 10 February 2022

1. What discussions she has had with representatives of the racing industry on (a) developing a single customer view and (b) the forthcoming gambling White Paper. (905554)

I have had extensive conversations with the horse-racing industry and with hon. Members who represent constituencies with racing interests on the Gambling Act 2005 review in general and on the plans that the industry are voluntarily developing to share information on customers who are at severe risk of addictive gambling disorders.

Can the Minister confirm that when the draft proposals of the review are announced, there will be an impact assessment on the horse-racing industry? Will he meet me to discuss my alternative to the proposed single customer view, the single customer wallet, which would not only be cheaper and more efficient for the industry to bring in, but offer consumers better protections?

I would be delighted to meet my hon. Friend to discuss his ideas. I assure him that proper impact assessments will be done. We know that horse-racing is a vital sport for the people who work in the industry. It supports many jobs, it provides leisure activities for many people, and it is a significant source of national pride and prestige. Nothing in the Gambling Act review, I hope, will do anything to undermine the financial condition of that great sport or its place at the heart of our national life.

I refer to my entry in the register. I caution the Minister that the civil service always underestimates the extent of potential for fraud and the black market. Whether with tobacco smuggling, excise fraud, VAT fraud, self-employment scams or covid scams, it is continually surprised by what happens. Before he brings out the gambling White Paper, will he talk to the racing and gaming industry to ensure that his proposals do not fuel the black market and organised crime?

I thank the right hon. Gentleman for attending the recent meeting that we had on the topic. We are, of course, concerned about the possibility of black market gambling. I hope there will be proposals in our review to give the Gambling Commission additional powers to tackle and combat black market betting. We will be mindful of the risks that he has highlighted; I have discussed them already with the Betting and Gaming Council and the industry. We need to balance protecting people who are at severe risk of gambling addiction and serious harm—some people even commit suicide—with ensuring that there is not a flourishing black market, which I am sure all hon. Members on both sides of the House would want to prevent.

I support the words of my hon. Friend the Member for North West Leicestershire (Andrew Bridgen) and the right hon. Member for Warley (John Spellar). I welcome the fact that the Minister will carry out an impact assessment on the possible effect on horse-racing of any changes that he proposes. He will be aware that racing depends heavily on bookmakers for about 45% of its income. I congratulate him on that policy and thank him for the way in which he is carrying out the review.

I thank my hon. Friend for the meeting that we recently attended. As I said, we will consider the impact of the whole set of proposals covered in the gambling White Paper, which will obviously have a number of effects on different bits of the economy. As I said at the meeting with the all-party parliamentary group on betting and gaming a few days ago, we want to ensure that nothing in the review undermines the status of horse-racing.

Delays to gambling reform cost about £647 million each year and the Government have failed to act. It is not good enough. Up to 1.4 million people are considered to be problem gamblers, so I am struggling to see why the Government continue to drag their feet when the need for reform is crystal clear. What is the Minister doing in advance of the long-awaited White Paper, because we need to address the issue now?

All kinds of measures have been taken to address some of those very serious problems, which I completely recognise and accept. For example, a year or two ago, the use of credit cards to gamble online was banned. As we speak, the industry is in the process of developing a voluntary single customer view. A number of things have been done.

We are working, and have been working, on the Gambling Act review at pace and it will be published in the very near future. It is important to get it right, however, which is why we have taken the time to consult extensively and listen to stakeholders. I have met many hon. Members on both sides of the House to listen to their views too. It is very imminent because, as the hon. Lady says, large numbers of people are suffering serious harm, up to and including committing suicide. That is why it is important for the House to act on, I hope, a cross-party basis, broadly speaking, to sort it out.