SBC News Bill South: Does UK Gambling need to reinvent itself...

Bill South: Does UK Gambling need to reinvent itself…

SBC News Bill South: Does UK Gambling need to reinvent itself...
Bill South

Post Gambling Review, consensus points to UK Gambling needing to ‘reinvent itself’ to regain public and regulatory trust. A noble objective, yet compliance and integrity expert Bill South advises UK stakeholders to look back at 2010 and the collaborative success of the ‘Parry Report’. 

So the much-anticipated gambling White Paper has, at last, arrived. Promising more detailed affordability checks, a consultation on stake limits, a statutory levy for research, education and treatment (although the major operators had in fact already committed to that figure), the creation of an ombudsman, further advertising measures and proactive efforts to tackle the ‘black market’ amongst others, the list is a full and varied one in its efforts to tackle a myriad of matters that seem to blight confidence in the industry.

Are we then looking at a period of change, or perhaps a re-invention, if you like to meet the White Paper proposals?

Recent regulatory settlements would imply that operators continue to fail in those areas of thorough customer due diligence and effective responsible gambling principles. A reformed Gambling Commission, with increased powers and more industry scrutiny and independent consumer redress, seems to provide at least some of the answer.

It is worth pointing out, however, that over the last decade a familiar cycle seems to have developed: operator failings are revealed; the regulator investigates; its findings are highly critical of organisational processes and management oversight; and an ever-increasing level of regulatory settlement is imposed (often accompanied by the threat of a licence review). Then the regulator acknowledges the operator’s commitment to improve, the operator is suitably contrite (“It was the previous lot, guv”), and the negative perception of the industry is reinforced. Press repeat.

This sorry cycle has cost the industry some £50 million in regulatory fines and doesn’t feel like success… Has there, over the last ten years, evolved a challenging but respectful relationship between the industry and its regulator?  One that ultimately benefits the consumer, the punter and, vitally, those at-risk individuals? I would suggest not.

So why can’t the ‘players’ at the centre of this cycle see it? While accepting that it’s a complicated debate, I would suggest that there is one keyword at the centre of all this, one that is conspicuous by its absence. Trust. There is no trust on either side, that the industry is determined to improve or that the regulator has any desire to change its adversarial approach. Without it, we seem doomed to repeat this downward spiral.

And yet, a successful industry model already provides a powerful alternative example.

Back in February 2010, The Report of the Sports Betting Integrity Panel was published. Convened by the Minister for Sport Gerry Sutcliffe and chaired by Rick Parry, the panel included key people from a broad band of stakeholders: the betting industry, the police, players, fans, Sports Governing Bodies, the legal profession and the Gambling Commission.

The Panel was charged with looking at a wide range of issues relating to sports betting integrity and, crucially, to make recommendations on how the various bodies concerned could work together more effectively. Their objective: a strategy designed to uphold integrity in sports and betting on sport.

I remember those first panel meetings well. “Fruity” does not really do them justice! There were some extremely entrenched views about who was solely responsible for some of the issues under discussion. Unfortunately, some of those early exchanges veered into the personal – never helpful. And yet, under the patient guidance of Rick Parry, a collective will develop. It produced a set of meaningful, thoughtful and positive recommendations, which moved the sports betting integrity dial. As relationships developed, so did trust.

I was fortunate enough over the intervening years to stay in contact with many of my fellow panel members. Although (and quite reasonably) we did not always agree on everything, what has endured is a real respect for each other’s position and a pride in what we were, from difficult beginnings, able to achieve. The ‘Parry Report’ is still referred to and used today, and the Gambling Commission’s collaborative Sports Betting Integrity Forum remains a place where many of the Panel’s contributing bodies still discuss and tackle integrity issues as they arise.

We are not then talking about reinvention but a focus on improvement shared by all the parties involved. The International Betting Integrity Association (IBIA) talks about constructive exchanges being always welcome, and that is the place that the Gambling Commission needs to find itself. Back in 2010, Rick Parry talked about there being a role for all partners to play and that placing too great an emphasis on any single part of the chain is likely to compromise its effectiveness.

The White Paper then presents an opportunity. With the formation of the Betting and Gaming Council (BGC), for example, definite strides have been taken in the sphere of collaboration, but until the cycle is broken and a level of trust develops, the answers will elude us all. That, surely, is the objective: a well-run, well-regulated and safe industry enjoyed by those who wish to take part.


Check Also

SBC News GambleAware highlights ‘pressing need’ for holistic response

GambleAware highlights ‘pressing need’ for holistic response

GambleAware has announced that more than 100,000 people have used its new online self-assessment tool …

SBC News UKGC fines bet365 £582k for customer deficiencies

UKGC fines bet365 £582k for customer deficiencies

The UK Gambling Commission (UKGC) and bet365 have settled on a fine of £582,120 related …

SBC News UKGC to impose LCCP quarterly returns from 1 July

UKGC to impose LCCP quarterly returns from 1 July

The UK Gambling Commission (UKGC) has confirmed that all licence holders must submit regulatory returns …