FIFA World Cup BGC allegations

BGC: ‘Baseless allegations’ against betting industry marring World Cup joy

Amid the FIFA World Cup and with the Gambling Act review White Paper publication apparently looming, the Betting and Gaming Council (BGC) has called MPs to use ‘common sense’.

The review of Britain’s gambling legislation, which will bring about the biggest changes since 2005, is now approaching the two year mark, coinciding with one of the biggest events for the betting industry, the World Cup.

In the view of Bridgid Simmonds OBE, BGC Chair, ‘emotions are running’ during the tournament, and this has fuelled ‘a torrent of baseless allegation’ against both betting operators and their customers. SBC News BGC: ‘Baseless allegations’ against betting industry marring World Cup joy

“As this long process draws to a conclusion, MPs should not allow emotions to overrule common sense,” Simmonds asserted. 

“Any dispassionate analysis of the facts leads to the obvious conclusion that betting is popular, problem gambling is low, while the industry is good for sport, the economy and tax take. 

“The industry takes its responsibility for safer gambling very seriously. To shackle it with the kinds of regulations being called for by prohibitionists would create harm, not prevent it. Common sense must prevail.”

The gambling reform lobby, SImmonds continued, is ‘backed by poorly informed commentators’ and is finding ‘extreme reasons’ to claim that the World Cup will cause gambling harm. 

Although Simmonds has not cited any specific examples, some gambling harm minimisation and treatment organisations have argued that the cost of living crisis has heightened the risk  of problematic gambling among vulnerable groups. 

Disputing these claims, the BGC’s Chair stated that reformists’ arguments are not always backed by sound evidence, pointing to figures published by the UK Gambling Commission (UKGC) over the past year.

The regulator’s statistics indicate that the UK’s problem gambling rate stands at 0.2%, whilst overall gambling participation remains below pre-pandemic levels – although the UKGC added that betting levels are increasing among younger demographics.

“In fact, despite COVID and the cost-of-living crisis, problem gambling rates in the UK have been falling for the past number of years,” Simmond continued.

“It is not soaring, it is not rocketing, it remains a small number of the many millions who bet safely and responsibly. But that doesn’t mean the sector hasn’t taken concrete steps to reduce harm where they can.”

BGC members ‘recognise that there are some who will always struggle with their betting’, she added, explaining that this has motivated the industry to fund research, education and treatment (RET) via its voluntary levy.

The trade body’s largest members have pledged £100m in RET funding over four years to GabmleAware administered projects and are on track to provide £110m by the end of March 2024, whilst also adopting a number of responsible betting measures.

Some of these measures are visible during the World Cup, such as the whistle-to-whistle ban on and general reduction of advertising and over 25-age restrictions on social media marketing, although the independence of GambleAware’s industry-funded activities have been questioned by some public health professionals.

“This contribution comes from an industry which supports over one hundred thousands jobs, while generating billions for the economy and in taxes,” Simmonds remarked.

“This stands in stark contrast to the growing unsafe, unregulated gambling black market. These sites are easy to access and the numbers betting there are already in the hundreds of thousands, and the amount bet is in the billions.

“Our members support the White Paper as a further opportunity to drive up standards. But none of the measures from the government should risk driving punters to the unsafe, unregulated black market.”

SBC News BGC: ‘Baseless allegations’ against betting industry marring World Cup joy

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