It is not fair – Steph Shilton wants Government to publish gambling White Paper

Steph Shilton has urged the Government to publish its long-awaited gambling White Paper after attending a gambling harm prevention summit at Wembley.

More than 100 key stakeholders in sport were present at the home of football on Wednesday for an event put on by EPIC Risk Management and UCFB’s Global Institute of Sport.

Speakers included ex-Reading manager Brian McDermott, former Oxford footballer Scott Davies and Steph Shilton, the wife of England great Peter Shilton, who revealed in 2020 his own 45-year battle with gambling addiction.

Global gambling harm minimisation consultancy EPIC released its own White Paper from its Pro Sport Advisory Board during the summit, where it called on governing bodies and senior figures at clubs to increase awareness of gambling harm and highlighted the importance of lived experiences.

But the Government’s gambling White Paper, a review of the Gambling Act 2005, remains on hold after its anticipated release last July was delayed.

“The Government just keep kicking it down the road and it is so frustrating,” Steph Shilton told the PA news agency.

“In a weird way it is not fair on anyone. It is not fair on the gambling companies because everyone is in limbo. You can’t set budgets, you can’t do planning, so everyone is losing out in it being stalled. Why Rishi (Sunak) is not pushing it through I just don’t know because it is there ready.

“The whole time the numbers of people being affected are totting up. It will also benefit treatment, prevention and education and I don’t think number 10 get that. I don’t think they understand the need for it and the stability it would bring in terms of protecting and safeguarding.”

The delay back in July is understood to have occurred due to a new leader of the Conservative Party being required and the months that followed saw more turmoil with Boris Johnson’s successor Liz Truss eventually replaced by Sunak as Prime Minister.

A further blow to its publication took place on Tuesday when a reshuffle of Sunak’s cabinet saw Paul Scully leave his role as gambling minister, having only been appointed in October.

When it does eventually get released, its impact will be “massive” according to ex-English Football League player Davies, who struggled with a gambling addiction for a decade and went from the cusp of the Premier League to dropping out of the professional game.

EPIC programme facilitator Davies told PA: “The longer it has been delayed, the more of a negative impact on people it has had when it comes to gambling. More and more people are being affected.

“The last couple of years with Covid, I have people reach out to me who work at home and their jobs are in jeopardy or footballers who are unsure of their contracts, they are at home searching for that risk and buzz element.

“It has been quite dramatic the increase in the number of people reaching out for different reasons, so the White Paper will be massive when it does come out. It will shine a lot on it and the work we do, what the Pro Sport Advisory Board do and their findings, it will all help.

“When we see it in black and white, it will be a lot easier to dissect and see where we can make improvements.”

Davies is one of several ex-footballers and former sports athletes recruited by EPIC to go into professional clubs to speak about the dangers of gambling harm through his own lived experience.

Marc Williams, a one-time Wales Under-21 international, was also at Wembley and part of a panel that discussed the wider impact of gambling harm with an earlier panel going through the proactive approach required in addition to who is responsible for preventing gambling harm.

“The last time a review was done was under Tony Blair in 2005, so it has been a long time waiting,” Williams told PA.

“There has not been change for nearly 18 years. In that 18 years gambling has grown so big and the industry is as big as it has ever been.

“That’s why the work we do with EPIC is a must and we have to keep growing, which we are. We want to take the problem out of gambling and we want to reduce gambling harm.”