There was a double-dose of good news for those that enjoy a flutter on the horses and those that love the sport in general this week.
Rishi Sunak delivered a speech ahead of the Thoroughbred Industry Employee Awards that extolled the virtues of horse racing in the UK, recognising the £4 billion that the sports pumps into the economy’s coffers each year.
“From my visits to Middleham, and Catterick racecourse, both in my constituency, I have seen the sheer hard work, grit and dedication of all in British racing for the horses in their care,” the Prime Minister said. “I want to see British racing and breeding stay at the front of this global race in the years ahead.”
The former chancellor seems to have a decent idea of how money works – it’s amazing how many incumbents of the role don’t (cough Kwasi Kwarteng cough), and so he will know that the success of British horse racing is indebted, somewhat, to the finances pumped into the sport by the Betting Levy.
It’s not know what part, if any, Sunak has had to play in the government’s White Paper on proposed gambling reform. But if he does have a say in the matter, he will surely be mindful of the damage enhanced affordability checks on punters will have on racing in Yorkshire and the rest of the UK.
And according to the Racing Post, one in six punters have already faced such intrusion BEFORE the White Paper has even been released.
So does the Prime Minister have a genuine love for horse racing, or was his address to the Thoroughbred Industry Employee Awards mere political platitudes? Only time will tell, with the Gambling White Paper now thought to be imminent following the release of a similar document on football governance earlier this week.
Sixth Time Lucky?
Meanwhile, the government has unveiled their new gambling minister – the sixth individual to inhabit the role since the consultation period for the White Paper was launched way back in 2021.
Stuart Andrew, the MP for Pudsey, Horsforth and Aireborough in Yorkshire, is the latest to fill the role after replacing his predecessor, Paul Scully.
The Welshman will combine the role with his other duties in the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, and the good news for punters is that he is pro-gambling based upon his previous voting habits.
There was a Public Whip policy titled ‘Gambling – Against Permissiveness’ which aimed to crackdown on the proliferation of betting shops, stake sizes and other prohibitive details.
But Andrew voted ‘strongly against’ the proposals, and that’s in line with his general voting habits which, according to TheyWorkForYou, has seen him vote seven times against greater regulation of the gambling industry.
If he has the time to get involved in the White Paper before it’s published, that could be very good news for the sector indeed.
Who Is Stuart Andrew?
The 51-year-old has had a career packed with incident and scandal – par for the course in this Conservative party.
Andrew also flew out to Qatar to attend the World Cup at the tailend of 2022, although he showed his willingness to put his head above the parapet by wearing the OneLove armband – which had been expressly forbidden by FIFA – in the stands at the England vs Wales clash.
Andrew, who himself is gay, has also spoken of a homophobic attack that he was the victim of back in 1997. And in 2012, he was headbutted and punched by the Scottish Labour MP, Eric Joyce, in a parliamentary bar. Joyce, who was charged with assault and fined £3,000, had been loudly singing that there was ‘too many Tories’ in the venue prior to the breakout of violence.
He also hit the headlines after accepting a near £2,000 hospitality package from Paddy Power to attend England’s clash with Germany at Euro 2020 as a VIP, although he certainly wasn’t the only one to do so.
In 1998 he defected from the Conservatives to Labour over concerns over the ‘direction’ of the party, before returning to the Tories in the year 2000.
Andrew retained his seat at the 2015 General Election in impressive fashion, winning what was predicted to be a marginal contest with ease to extend his majority to some 4,501 votes.
In 2022, he stood down as housing minister in the midst of Boris Johnson’s downfall as PM. “There comes a time when you have to look at your own personal integrity and that time is now. Our party, particularly our members and more importantly our great country, deserve better,” Andrew said.