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Mark Jenkinson MP: Tech solutions ‘the balanced approach’ to gambling harm

The direction of the UK’s gambling industry continues to be a topic of political debate as stakeholders still await the outcome of the long-awaited Gambling Act review.

Having begun in December 2020, the review has seen a range of issues discussed extensively, but has been repeatedly delayed to make room for more research and, in other cases, due to political instability. 

One area of debate which has been at the forefront of the review is that of affordability checks – promoted by reformists as an ideal player protection measure, but derided by others as intrusive and potentially damaging to the industry and sports sectors funded by it.

“Getting the balance right can often be like walking a tightrope. One foot wrong, and you’ll come crashing down to earth,” remarked Mark Jenkinson MP, writing in The House for the Betting and Gaming Council (BGC).

“I decided long ago to make up my own mind about betting and gaming, not fall for the lazy stereotypes others continue to cling to. I see an industry ready to find a balance – I hope government offers them a pathway so punters can continue to enjoy a bet.”

In the MP’s view, to find this balance the industry should look to technological solutions, arguing that a ‘one size fits all’ approach rarely works in practice.

Such technology is already being rolled out across the UK’s betting and gaming space, demonstrated by the activities of companies such as Mindway AI, W2 and Crucial Compliance, among others. 

Earlier this year, SBC spoke to Dan Spencer, EPIC Risk Management’s Director of Safer Gambling, about the consultancy’s partnership with Mindway and the potential of AI for player protection.

Indicative of the long-term interest in this tech, last year W2 and Crucial Compliance wrote a joint article for SBC News discussing enhancement of player protection standards.

Jenkinson added: “Surely better to use technology and the tools already available and devise a targeted approach?

“An approach that identifies those at risk and puts in additional protections, while allowing the rest of the public to carry on doing what they love without nanny state intrusion. That would be the balanced approach.”

The remainder of Jenkinson’s op-ed focused on the impact affordability checks could have on customer preferences, and the subsequent effect this could have on the sector as a whole. 

It has been a long-running argument presented by the BGC that enhanced stricter affordability measures could drive bettors towards black market operators, which offer little to no player safety standards.

In support of its argument, the BGC has often cited figures and reports, such as a PwC investigation last year which showed that the number of bettors using black market sites had risen from 210,000 to 460,000 over two years.

Just yesterday, BGC CEO Michael Dugher – who has also written for The House in the past – referred to a YouGov study in his argument that nanny state measures would push customers away from regulated companies.

Jenkinson commented: “Over-regulate the legal market, and frustrated punters will find another way to place their bets. The numbers using these sites has doubled and the amount staked is now in the billions.”

With the Gambling Act review potentially back on the political table after the stabilisation of the situation in Westminster, the industry could find out legislators’ decisions on issues including affordability, sponsorships and advertising in the New Year.

SBC News Mark Jenkinson MP: Tech solutions ‘the balanced approach’ to gambling harm

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