Sports Minister to Take Lead Role in Shirt Sponsorship Review
The newly appointed sports minister will take a leading role in the government’s review of the 2005 Gambling Act. MP Nigel Huddleston will have responsibility for the report which is expected to call for the biggest shake-up of the industry for over 15 years.
A focus of the report will be to examine the relationship sports clubs, and individuals have with the gambling industry with campaigners calling for a blanket ban on betting sponsorship. Such a move would prove costly, especially in football, a sport in which the majority of shirt sponsorship deals involving the top two leagues are with gambling-related companies.
Huddlestone became the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Sport, Tourism and Heritage after Boris Johnson shuffled his cabinet earlier this month. His department will be responsible for government planning for the 2022 Commonwealth Games in Birmingham. His immediate focus is, however, likely to be on the close relationship between sport and gambling companies.
Huddlestone took over the role from Nigel Adams who has moved to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, and the new minister of sport has the added responsibility of bringing regulation in line with technical advances. Prime minister Boris Johnson described the current Gambling Act as being “an analogue Act in a digital age”.
The 49-year-old has previous experience with the gambling industry, the MP for Mid Worcestershire has previously spoken in parliament of his concerns about problem betting and was a staunch campaigner in the campaign to reduce the maximum stake of fixed-odds betting terminals in betting shops. This successful campaign was during his first stint at the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport in 2017.
Huddlestone will report to former Paymaster General Oliver Dowden who took over as Secretary of State for the DCMS as part of the reshuffle. Dowden replaces Nicky Morgan who decided against running for re-election at the last general election.
One man who is likely to forge close ties with the sports minister is the CEO of the Betting and Gaming Council, Michael Dugher. On the subject of Huddlestone’s appointment to the DCMS role, Dugher acknowledged that the MP was highly respected in parliament and praised the relevant experience that he possesses. He expressed he was excited with the prospect of working for him, saying:
We are determined to drive big changes across the betting and gaming industry to deliver the highest standards in the world, and I’m looking forward to supporting Nigel in the government’s review of the Gambling Act.– Michael Dugher, Betting and Gaming Council CEO.
The government have introduced tough new regulations on the gaming industry in recent years. The FOBT maximum stake hit many operators hard with William Hill alone stating the regulation had hit operating profits by as much as £100m. Bookmakers also will be braced for the introduction of a ban on using credit cards for gambling;
this law comes into effect in April. Many insiders expect this trend to continue with tougher rules on advertising, a stadium ban on gambling products and a betting levy among others all being considered at regulator level.