The phrase ‘nanny state’ was first used to describe the overbearing nature of the British political system some seven decades ago – sadly, it still seems incredibly relevant all these years later.
From alcohol duty and sugar taxes to calorie counts on restaurant menus, this government – and many before them – have taken on a surrogate parenting role in their policy-making that does very little for the so-called democratic and ‘free’ nature of the United Kingdom.
Reports suggest that the gambling sector is the next in their crosshairs. Ministers are putting the finishing touches to their White Paper on the findings of their Gambling Act review, and a number of predicted recommendations could impact upon the freedoms of punters.
Those include the imposition of affordability checks, which will require punters who bet a certain amount per month – and possibly as relatively little as £100 – to show they can afford to lose it.
Initially, it was thought this would require customers to present bank statements or payslips to confirm their affordability status, although it has now been suggested that ‘soft’ credit checks – which don’t appear on an individual’s credit report – could be utilised instead.
But even so, some within horse racing believe affordability checks could cost the sport £100 million per year in lost levy revenue, while others suggest that such draconian measures could push more punters towards unregulated black market bookies instead.
Rees-Mogg to the Rescue?
The affordability checks are not the only measure rumoured to feature in the governmental review.
It has also been suggested that the offer of free bets and bonuses could be limited or banned altogether, while online casino gamers could be hit with a maximum stake ceiling of between £2 and £5.
Those new rules effectively determine how the Average Joe is able to spend their money, and critics suggest that it’s not the public who should be ‘taxed’ but rather those companies that benefit from gambling activity.
On which note….original plans to ban betting firms from sponsoring Premier League football clubs, and thus prevent them from plastering their branding on the front of shirts and on advertising hoardings around the pitch, are rumoured to have been overturned.
Instead, clubs could be forced to join a mandatory levy, into which they will make payments to help fund treatment of – and research into – problem gambling.
Incredibly, the unlikeliest of ‘saviours’ is thought to have interjected in support of the betting sector.
Jacob Rees-Mogg has slammed the proposals as ‘nanny state intervention’, and his influence could see the government’s formal plans for the industry be changed altogether.
The Daily Mail has reported their source in Whitehall as saying: “Rees-Mogg is trying to block it. He is telling MPs that the whole thing is a load of nanny state nonsense.
“It’s ideological with him – he doesn’t think the state has a role in dealing with problem gambling despite the misery it causes. For now, he is using delaying tactics – raising a whole load of questions about the details – but it looks like his agenda is to block it.”
Is the UK a Nanny State?
There is a fine line between a government doing the right thing and helping to protect the welfare of the people it represents, and then going too far as to make personal choice and freedom a difficult thing to achieve.
There are so many worrying stories emerging of how policy makers are looking to prevent individuals from making their own choices – be it good, bad or ugly. For instance, some have suggested that the minimum legal age for smoking should be increased every year….eventually creating a ‘smoke-free generation’.
In April of this year, new laws were introduced that forced eateries with more than 250 staff to print calorie counts on their menus – designed to tackle the obesity crisis, although the jury is out on whether diners will take heed of the numbers, rather than simply enjoying their experience instead.
Ministers have also tried to ban the sale of energy drinks to under-18s, and even urged supermarkets to remove the sweets and chocolate selection from their checkouts.
The Daily Express, an avid pro-Conservative newspaper, even published a thought piece slamming Boris Johnson for his alleged move away from libertarianism to totalitarianism.
At a time when the cost of living is reaching all-time highs, so-called ‘sin taxes’ are making food, soft drinks, tobacco and alcohol more expensive than ever, and pricing many out of visits to the pub, restaurants and the like.
Is this a world we want to live in?