Labour Peer makes U-turn over gambling reforms

Former Culture Secretary Baroness Tessa Jowell last week demanded stricter regulations on gambling, despite having relaxed the law in 2005.

Speaking in the House of Lords on Thursday, Jowell called on the Government to increase regulation of the number of betting shops and gaming machines on the high street.

Baroness Jowell was responsible for bringing in the Gambling Act 2005, an action she still defends.


Lord Foster of Bath criticised the current gambling regulations, citing figures from the Gambling Commission’s latest report on young people.

This shows 32,000 eleven to fifteen-year-olds entered betting shops in a single week to play on highly addictive gaming machines.

The Lord Bishop of St Albans also told the House that nearly a tenth of eleven to sixteen-year-olds play “gambling-style games using smartphones”.

He said that this normalised gambling “at a very formative time in young people’s development”.


Jowell’s response to these claims was simply that “gambling changes rapidly”, and said that “many new gambling products know no borders, which creates a regulatory challenge”.

She went on to call on culture minister Lord Ashton of Hyde to look at strengthening regulations.

She asked him to “ensure that a regulatory review is undertaken not only of the speed of play and the number of machines but also of the planning consent that has led to the outbreak of betting shops, driven by the availability of these machines on high streets across the country”.


Daniel Martin, Chief Political Correspondent for the Daily Mail, pointed out that it was her Gambling Act which led to the outbreak of betting shops and prevalence of Fixed Odds Betting Terminals (FOBTs).

“It was under her watch that the dangerous gambling machines proliferated”, he wrote.

Jowell maintained that her reforms brought in “one of the most highly regulated gambling regimes in the world”.


Adrian Parkinson, Campaign Consultant for Fairer Gambling, criticised the relaxed regulations around FOBTs permitted under Jowell’s Gambling Act.

He said: “They should never have been allowed and her comments today confirm this – but unfortunately too late for thousands of people whose lives have been destroyed by these machines.”

“Let’s hope that ministers today listen carefully to what Tessa Jowell is saying, otherwise they may be back in a few years like her, regretting not doing something”, he added.

Government review

Lord Ashton, a minister for the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, confirmed the Government is conducting a gambling review, and would consult on evidence submitted soon.

The Government carried out a call for evidence last year to determine if more regulations should be placed on gambling.

It is set to review the harmful nature of FOBTs, dubbed the ‘crack cocaine’ of gambling, and whether gambling adverts should be banned before the 9pm watershed.

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