UK Government Appoints New Gambling Minister to Complete Sector Overhaul

Houses of Parliament and Westminster BridgeAfter Boris parachuted his old chum, I’m a Celebrity: Get Me Out of Here survivor Nadine Dorries, into the post of Culture Secretary as part of his cabinet reshuffle, the new-look department has now been finalised.

Chris Philp, the MP for Croydon South, has been spirited in as the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Digital Economy – let’s just call him the Gambling Minister for short.

He replaces the previous incumbent, John Whittingdale, in the role, and let’s hope he’s been getting plenty of sleep as he is likely to be very busy in the months ahead at a real crossroads moment for the betting sector.

Dorries, who replaced Oliver Dowden, and Philp will be thrown in at the deep end as they consider the ramifications of the Gambling Act review and watch on as a number of integral British brands – principally William Hill, Ladbrokes and Coral – look set to be sold to American suitors.

They will need to oversee any reforms that emerge from the government’s white paper, which are likely to include more stringent measures on operators and the introduction of some kind of mandated affordability check or loss limit for players.

As if all that wasn’t enough, the overwhelming presence of betting brands within football – primarily as sponsors and commercial partners – will also need to be looked at, with a rumoured ban on shirt sponsorship in the English game potentially to be imposed.

Talk about easing your way in gently!

Who is Chris Philp?

Chris Philp MP

Richard Townshend, CC BY 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The 45-year-old has taken a typically Tory route to the top rung of UK politics.

He was educated at the selective St Olave’s Grammar School for Boys in Orpington, before going on to study physics at Oxford University.

Upon graduation, he went into management consultancy, advising the boards of a number of FTSE 100 companies on best business practice, before setting up his own firm – Blueheath Holdings.

They specialised in distribution and won a number of big contracts, which eventually led to them being acquired by the Booker Group in a £375 million agreement.

Phil hasn’t always shown a golden touch in commerce, however, with his recruitment and training firm Clearstone going bust in 2007.

He took his first major leap into politics in 2010, where he attempted to win the Hampstead and Kilburn seat in the general election. A Labour stronghold, Philp lost out to former actress Glenda Jackson, however he did increase the Conservatives’ vote share in the borough.

Suitably impressed, the Tories stuck Philp up for the Croydon South seat in 2013, with the incumbent – Conservative MP Richard Ottaway – deciding to retire. He won by a handsome margin to become an MP for the first time.

Since then he has risen through the ranks as a Parliamentary Private Secretary to a number of key figures within the party, although his shift to Gambling Minister would be considered a sideways move given the turbulent times ahead.

How Does Chris Philp Vote?

Man in suit voting

Thanks to the transparency of ministerial voting, we can actually find out a little bit more about Philp based upon his past vote data.

What we learn straight off the bat is that he was a vocal supporter of stake limits on FOBT machines – not only that, he actively campaigned for them prior to the £2 maximum being introduced in 2019. The only assumption we can glean from that is that he is anti-gambling in some regard, or at least an advocated for tighter controls in the sector.

Aside from that, it’s clear that Philp is a man willing to back his own instincts – he doesn’t always toe the party line. He voted in favour of measures for the terminally ill to be given assistance to end their lives, which was very much against the general Tory consensus.

He’s a man with clear economic interests – he voted against raising taxes on banks, while voting for a reduction in capital gains tax, but he does seem to care about the common man too: voting to increase the threshold at which income tax is paid. However, he does want the amount of tax paid on alcoholic beverages to be increased, so boo to you Chris.

Philp is a supporter of privatisation, as is the Conservative norm, and was pro-Brexit – voting against bills that would have seen EU nationals already in the UK allowed to stay. He’s also voted against measures designed to prevent climate change, and voted against the removal of hereditary peers from the Commons.

Make of Chris Philp MP what you will….