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Volume 711: debated on Thursday 24 March 2022

As my hon. Friend knows, the review of the Gambling Act 2005 is under way and will conclude imminently. Part of that is about the legislation governing casinos. We have received detailed evidence from the casinos sector—I have made a few visits to the sector—and we will publish our White Paper in the near future.

I refer the House to my entry in the Register of Members’ Financial Interests. The Gambling Act review provides a golden opportunity to review the legislation governing casinos and to bring that into the modern age. Allowing for sports betting and electronic payments and reviewing the current machine-to-table ratio will all help to create new jobs, investment and additional tax receipts for the Exchequer. Will the Minister commit to examining the case for the changes, as well as for allowing additional large casinos in locations such as Blackpool as part of the review?

The matters that my hon. Friend has raised are being considered in the review. We need to balance the ability of casinos to be economically viable with the need to keep players safe, and we are looking into how the current rules can be improved for those purposes. I know that there are seven unused Gambling Act 2005 casino licences, and I have heard my hon. Friend’s powerful representations on behalf of Blackpool, particularly with the levelling-up agenda in mind.

The Minister is well aware of the costs of delaying action to tackle problem gambling. When the Government’s long-awaited White Paper is finally published, it must go further to tackle issues with gambling licences, including those relating to the national lottery. In recent weeks, concerns have been raised about the Gambling Commission’s decision to award the new licence to a company with reported links to Gazprom. Given the extremely concerning situation in Ukraine, can the Minister confirm that he is confident that the new provider has no links to the Russian regime, and if so, why?

As part of its licence awarding process, the Gambling Commission has a statutory obligation to ensure that anyone to whom it gives a licence meets the fit and proper person test. I have asked the commission to assure me that it has conducted thorough inquiries to establish that the provisional licence awardee meets the test, and it has given me that assurance. There are also arrangements for the proposed licence holder to undergo the UK secure vetting process, and that work will begin shortly.

Bingo halls and adult gaming centres are important to seaside towns and high streets, and particularly important to tackling isolation among the elderly. Sadly, Redcar lost Beacon Bingo during the pandemic, but we still have some fantastic adult gaming centres, such as Playland Amusements. May I invite the Minister to come to Redcar and Cleveland and see our amusement centres in action, which might help to inform his decisions in the forthcoming gambling review?

I entirely recognise the importance of bingo halls and adult gaming as elements of vibrant communities up and down the country, often providing places where people can socialise. We are certainly trying to find ways in the review of ensuring that they are able to prosper and thrive, especially given that the risks posed to game players in those settings are at the lower end of the spectrum. I know that Redcar is famous not just for its bingo and gaming centres but for its lemon top ice cream, and I look forward greatly to enjoying that.

Despite its glaring omission of fixed odds betting terminals, the Gambling Act was largely successful, but it predates online gambling by a very long way, and it is therefore essential that we update gambling legislation to deal with that issue. When will we be able to see the White Paper so that we can start the discussion?

The hon. Gentleman is right to point out that online gambling exploded some time after the 2005 Act, and it does pose a number of serious risks. On Monday, in an Adjournment debate initiated by the hon. Member for Sheffield Central (Paul Blomfield), we discussed the tragic suicide of Jack Ritchie as a result of gambling addiction, and Jack’s parents, Liz and Charles, were in the Gallery listening to the debate. That case underlines the importance of taking action, particularly in relation to the online element. We are thinking about this very carefully and we do not want to rush it, but the publication of the White Paper is imminent.