Andrew Rhodes: Outcome of UK Gambling Review will be significant on a global basis 

The global significance of the pending outcomes of the Gambling Review were laid out by Andrew Rhodes, Chief Executive of the UK Gambling Commission (UKGC), to industry leaders attending the ICE 2022 World Regulatory Briefing. 

Opening his address, Rhodes welcomed ICE audiences to a ‘much-changed world’, adjusting to the aftermath of the global COVID-19 pandemic and its radical change in consumer choice and tech adoption.

Against a disrupted backdrop, the UKGC and DCMS is charged with finalising the review of the 2005 Gambling Act – a mandate that must be future-proof to safeguard a new generation of customers and novel products that will come to market.    

“There are some universal truths about the industry we regulate, but we also need to be realistic about those truths and not lose sight of what else is happening in this sector,” Rhodes stated.

“There is a whole new frontier of novel products out there now, and I want to talk about these unregulated products also. Like traditional gambling though, these novel products can and do cause harm, so I will update you on where we see our work in tackling gambling harms right now.”

Rhodes reflected that gambling is part of a digital-and-tech economy, however, the sector remains unique in that “gambling is a rental economy – based around taking money in exchange for an experience”.

Valued at £14 billion per year, Rhodes put forth the ‘universal truths’ of governing a business sector in which nearly half of the UK adult population participates in gambling each month and that has firmly shifted to a remote take-up by consumers.

Pre-empting changing consumer dynamics and public risks, the Commission has been at the regulatory forefront by –  enforcing a ban on credit card wagering, bolstering protections on high-value/VIPs customers, implementing safer game-play designs and strengthening all-round customer ID and verification provisions.

Yet Rhodes underlined that effective governance of the gambling industry required a bold regulatory ambition, in which regulators had the capacity to monitor incumbents beyond the boundaries of policy frameworks.

As such, the Commission has highlighted the development of its Single Customer Viewpoint as a ground-breaking initiative allowing regulators and stakeholders to secure a transparent view on public participation in gambling and the prevalence of gambling harms.

“What we are hoping will be possible through the Single Customer View is a position where those who are being flagged as being in distress can be intercepted at a much earlier stage as operators are able to safely alert each other.

“We will be publishing the results of that trial in the coming months and if successful will look to build the new methodology into a new gold standard set of official statistics going forwards from next year.

“All this work, this innovation, of course, costs. In people, in time and in money. But we know the investment we make now will make gambling fairer and safer in the future. That’s not a bet, that’s a fact.”

The importance of the Gambling Review obtaining the most comprehensive protections was deemed as significant as UK PLCs had been at the centre of the sector’s M&A developments reshaping gambling’s global landscape.

The UKGC deems the Single Customer View, as a first-of-a-kind measure that will require the collaboration of licensed operators, governing bodies and wider industry stakeholders to ensure that UK gambling is governed by comprehensive controls. 

 As new challenges loom, the UKGC has called for a focus on “collaboration amongst gambling regulators across the globe as essential”.

Rhodes concluded: “Many of the operators we deal with in Great Britain will be the same as those dealt with in other jurisdictions. Things that are not being done well here, are likely to be issues in other countries too, when you consider these are multinationals. I hope that we can get to a point of joint investigations and joint action and move beyond some of the good things we already to.

“Gambling is a fast-moving, dynamic industry. It is more and more a global tech industry. And it has many hangers-on, trying to make a quick buck in the unregulated spaces nearby.

“The potential for innovation has never been so great. But neither has the potential for risk or harm. But we can make gambling fairer, safer and crime-free.”

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