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Kevin Smith

Progress Slow in UK, but Modernization Plan Is Intact

27 May 2003

Despite recent reports to the contrary, Clive Hawkswood says a bill that would overhaul the way gambling is conducted in the United Kingdom is alive and well and will go before Parliament; he's just not sure when.

Hawkswood, senior policy advisor for the U.K. Department for Culture, Media and Sport has been a central figure on the DCMS's betting and racing team during its two-plus years of reviewing U.K. gaming laws in an effort to modernize the industry.

"It isn't for us to say when [new gambling policy] will be introduced in Parliament, but no one is giving up on this."
- Clive Hawkswood

While government officials had targeted the 2004 parliamentary session in getting the new bill passed, Hawkswood stressed Thursday that the timeframe is susceptible to movement as Parliament takes up more pressing matters.

"We never once said, 'It is going to happen by this date or this session,'" Hawskwood said.

Although the project could be delayed, and not everyone in the industry is in favor of it, Hawkswood said the idea of the whole initiative being dropped, as speculated recently, is preposterous.

"It isn't for us to say when it will be introduced in Parliament, but no one is giving up on this," he said. "If you are a small operator, things are kind of cozy right now and you don't have a lot of competition. I could see why they are apprehensive about this because there is going to be a lot more competition."

Hawkswood said he had heard rumors that the bill could be dropped. Some, he said, suggested that the impetus for dropping the bill was lack of interest from bookmakers and other gambling companies.

But many companies, Hawkswood pointed out, have been buying up various properties throughout the United Kingdom in anticipation of new liberal gambling laws and regulations.

Hawkswood said his team continues to work diligently on the measure and will be ready to proceed whenever leadership in Parliament is ready for the gambling bill.

He said the first section of the bill should be ready to be published in July with the rest of it ready by October. Officials will decide this summer whether the legislation will progress as one bill or whether the separate parts will be passed as they are completed. Once the bill is published, there will be a consultation process in which the DCMS will get input from both the gaming industry as well as government officials.

"We will be ready to go if they decide the bill will be in the next session," Hawkswood said.

While the overhaul of gaming laws has been a top priority for Hawkswood and his team, he acknowledged that the bill may not be as important in Parliament.

"There could be other government business that takes precedent over the bill," he said. "We aren't going to say the bill will be passed next session because you never know when another war is going to break out."

Hawkswood added, however, that an extended delay is unlikely.

Progress Slow in UK, but Modernization Plan Is Intact is republished from
Kevin Smith
Kevin Smith