Boris takes a punt on huge gambling reform despite promise of no major new initiatives

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Minister for Tech and the Digital Economy Damian Collins has given the green light for the Gambling Commission, an unelected quango, to start consulting on introducing intrusive credit checks for people who want to make even a small bet. The move had been one of the so-called “nanny state” policy areas Tory MPs had objected to with Mr Johnson’s government and a change of direction has been debated in the leadership election between Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss.

The plans for gambling had also been linked with other nanny state reforms which included a ban in the future on buy one, get one free (BOGOF) food deals.

A senior Conservative linked to one of the leadership campaigns told Express.co.uk: “This without doubt breaks the pledge not to have any major new initiatives before a new Prime Minister is in place.”

While the issue had been the policy of Mr Johnson’s government there is pressure that the next Tory leader will ditch them along with some other initiatives around restricting people’s freedom to choose.

Foreign Secretary and leadership frontrunner Liz Truss has already signalled to supporters that she is against many of the nanny state plans.

But Mr Collins has insisted that the consultation cannot wait to begin until a new leader is in place on September 5 pointing out that the plans have been in place since 2020.

In a letter, dated July 29 seen by Express.co.uk, he confirmed that he has asked the Gambling Commission to undertake an affordability consultation, able to set limits on punters, oversee credit checks and control the spending of millions of Britons.

Collins said: “It is my view that further progress in this area should not be delayed until the new administration is in place.

“DCMS and the Commission have worked closely together on the question of how financial checks could be implemented effectively and proportionately. As well as agreement on proposed thresholds for carrying out the checks.”

However, he also tried to provide reassurance that no new policy would be introduced until a new leader and Prime Minister is in place.

He said: “It has been decided that announcements of substantial new policy (such as the Gambling Act Review white paper), should be left for proper consideration by the incoming Prime Minister and their new administration. I recognise this delay and the resulting uncertainty will be a disappointment to the industry, but I want to reassure you that we remain committed to fulfilling our manifesto commitment and publishing a white paper once a new Prime Minister is in place. I also want to thank the Betting & Gaming Council and members for their engagement in recent months.”

Mr Collins added: “This will involve considering a number of issues, including the role for assessments of customers’ financial circumstances as part of the toolkit to identify those who may be at risk of gambling-related harms.”

The Express understands the consultation results will be published in August, ahead of the new regime taking shape, in a bid to see through its plans, unscathed.

It is feared that punters will be forced to share financial information, with the Commission deciding if players are allowed to spend what they want.

Previously, concerns have been raised that it could also kill off the horse racing industry.

It comes as the latest figures for “problem gambling,” reveal the issue has reached an all time low.

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According to the Gambling Commission, rates of problem gambling fell to just 0.2 percent in June – the lowest ever recorded.

One enraged Red Wall Conservative MP blasted: “At a time when problem gambling is at the lowest it has ever been, why are we empowering the blob to riffle through bank statements?

“An unelected quango has been given authority to decide what we can do. This is unprecedented.”

The former Labour MP, Michael Dugher, now at the Betting and Gaming Council, said: “’The latest problem gambling figures will come as a blow to anti-gambling prohibitionists who like to vastly overstate the issues to suit their efforts to treat gambling like tobacco, not like alcohol, but it also provides food for thought for new ministers considering a white paper this autumn.’’

One MP, supporting Liz Truss, said: “We have two years to win an election. What the latest figures show is the majority of the 20 million gamblers in the UK, gamble safely.

“Any changes to gambling should come into effect after the Gambling Act Review, which is overseen by politicians, not faceless bureaucrats.’

“We must pressure companies to always do more. But proportion is key. We cannot interfere in people’s lives, harming the treasury in the process.”

The consultation on affordability will cost the Treasury billions in lost revenue, according to insiders.

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