Here we go again. A new gambling minister for the industry – number five in less than two years – but hopes are high for a period of stability at the DCMS. Nigel Huddleston assumes the slippery slope of gambling minister at a time when the industry is working towards a new and modern gambling act.
Nigel Huddleston is the latest minister responsible for gambling as he takes the role of parliamentary under secretary of state for sport, tourism and heritage at the DCMS as of 14 February.
The former head of travel for Google has been part of the DCMS setup since he became an MP in 2015, first as a member of a Select Committee that investigated issues such as the renewal of the BBC’s Charter, sports sponsorship, disability access to stadia, museums and tourism, media regulation, football governance, secondary ticketing sites, drug taking in sport, homophobia in sport and broadband rollout.
After retaining his seat in Mid Worcestershire in the 2017 general election, Huddleston then served as parliamentary private secretary to ministers in the DCMS, including Matt Hancock and Jeremy Wright. In February 2019, he was appointed vice chairman of the Conservative Party, moving on to assistant government whip following the appointment of Boris Johnson as prime minister.
On his website, Huddleston takes credit for his role in passing legislation on puppy smuggling, indoor fireworks, and secondary ticketing for sporting events.
The announcement of his new role follows the switch-up in leadership at the DCMS, with last week’s cabinet reshuffle putting Oliver Dowden, MP for Hertsmere, in place of now-Baroness Nicky Morgan, who was followed out the door by Huddleston’s predecessor Helen Whateley, who has been appointed assistant minister of state within the department of health.
For the gambling industry and its trade bodies aiming to build political bridges, Huddleston represents a fourth responsible minister appointed within less than 18 months, with Whateley, Rebecca Pow and Michael Ellis all having served similarly brief terms in the office following the departure of a fifth in that time, Mims Davies.
Both new appointments to the DCMS, Dowden and Huddleston were opposed to Brexit prior to the 2016 referendum. Both, however, have handled the result with a pragmatism that has been rewarded by Johnson. As the UK enters a new era of expanded self-governance, albeit some financial uncertainty, the DCMS’s new dynamic duo will see the gambling industry as an economic opportunity for the country should they allow it to expand, but a potential political opportunity for themselves should they join its critics. It’s up to the industry and its trade bodies to limit these political opportunities and convince them that a flourishing gambling industry will be in their best interest as Johnson looks to bolster Britain’s post-Brexit economy.
If only the Gambling Commission thought the same?