Michael Dugher – Deeper collaboration can fix gambling inconsistencies

Michael Dugher, the new Chief Executive of Betting and Gaming Council (BGC), has stated that the ‘single industry’ representative body is determined to work with the government in its imminent review of the 2005 Gambling Act.

Writing an open letter in Parliamentary news source ‘’PoliticsHome.com’, Dugher underlines that collaboration between the industry and Westminster can deliver the most effective and far-reaching package of reforms for UK gambling.

Closing 2019, governance of the newly formed BGC surprised industry observers by confirming the appointment of Dugher – the former Labour Shadow Secretary for DCMS as the standard body’s first Chief Executive.

Dugher, who departed the comforts of leading the ‘UK Music’ trade group to head up the BGC, acknowledges the surprise at his appointment, in which his friends questioned why he would ‘drop the Brit Awards to represent the gambling sector?‘.

“One cabinet minister texted me to say they thought I was “ very brave”. Sadly, I could tell they meant it in the same way Sir Humphrey, in ‘Yes Minister’, famously described a potentially stupid or reckless decision,” Dugher recalls.

However, the former Labour MP for Barnsley East states that his decision was undertaken on the ‘clear understanding that that industry was committed to making big changes’.

Supporting the BGC’s appeal for collaboration, Dugher points to industry directives undertaken during a transformative 2019 which saw incumbents introduce a ‘whistle-to-whistle’ ban on advertising, increased funding of gambling harm education and treatment and further enforced customer ID and age-verification requirements.

For 2020, Dugher stresses that the betting industry has accepted its upcoming credit card ban from April and that UK betting immediately withdrew its exclusive streaming rights of FA Cup games following political and media backlash.

Dugher added: “Whereas the NHS has always had to pick up the bill for Britain’s alcohol problems, for more than 20 years the betting and gaming industry has been the sole funders of treatment in the UK.  Importantly, the largest BGC members are committing an additional £100 million to research, education and treatment (RET) over the next four years.

“I’m also pleased to see that new age-verification and ID checks have resulted in literally hundreds of thousands of accounts being closed recently, where the customer was unable or unwilling to meet the new strict criteria.”

In his letter, Dugher states that the betting industry is prepared to do much more, but requires government collaboration on distinct factors which will help develop robust regulatory frameworks supported by a ‘consistent evidence-led approach’.

Leading the BGC, Dugher underlines that tackling problem gambling will require honest dialogue between stakeholders with regards to understanding its complex social dynamics in which regulation is inconsistent as it stands

He continued: “At the moment, you can gamble at 16 or use your credit card to bet on the National Lottery in a high street shop like WH Smith’s or your local Tesco… Yet BGC members have a zero-tolerance approach that stops under-18s gambling and you have never been able to bet with your credit card in a licensed retail betting shop.”

The BGC makes it pleas for collaboration following criticism of the UK Gambling Commission (UKGC) by members of the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for Gambling Related Harm, for allowing UK gambling leadership to establish the terms on a ‘Code of Conduct on high-value customers (VIP programmes).

Amid criticism, Dugher notes the UKGC’s complex regulatory role overseeing a sector in which ‘46% of the UK population bets at least once a month’, and in which distinct social and economic factors have to be analysed.

“I am determined to drive big changes across the industry and to help the Government deliver the most far-reaching package of reforms as part of their review of the Gambling Act,” Dugher states concluding his letter.

“Going to the BGC might not be quite as much fun as going to the BRIT Awards, and I might be swapping the Glastonbury Festival for the Cheltenham Festival this year, but I think we can make a real difference for people’s lives and I’m looking forward to help lead important changes right across the industry.”

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