Home > Legal & compliance > GC chief moots Tripadvisor for punters, more online regulation

GC chief moots Tripadvisor for punters, more online regulation

| By Stephen Carter
Outgoing Gambling Commission CEO Sarah Harrison has mooted a “Tripadvisor” for consumers to redress punter-operator balance, as well as closer collaboration with partner regulators

Outgoing Gambling Commission chief executive Sarah Harrison has mooted a “Tripadvisor” for gambling consumers to redress the balance between punters and operators.

Speaking at the International Casino Exhibition (ICE) in London on Monday, for one of the last times as chief executive of the regulator, she said: “Currently, in this industry, there is an imbalance between businesses and consumer.

“The consumer bears a disproportionate share of the risk and tends not to have much access to information and data about their own pattern of play”.

Calling for change, she said the GC would be pushing for a more transparent industry going forward, and vowed to put more data into the public domain. This she said could include; information on the risks of particular products, the level of payout to good causes from lotteries, the treatment of customer funds, and the level of complaints.

“Brought together this could be the equivalent of a Tripadvisor for consumers helping them differentiate across operators on customer care and welfare features, as well as on price and brand,” she said.

Harrison went on to expand on three pillars of the GC’s strategy going forward; “preventing harms; protecting the interests of consumers and optimising returns to good causes from lotteries”.

Looking forward to the first National Lottery licence to be awarded by the GC in 2023, Harrison said the commission was already shaping “a robust and effective competition for the next licence, we will think creatively about how to grow the value of Lottery so that good causes continue to see significant benefit”.

Harrison will step down at the end of this month to take up a senior role within the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy.

Coming to the close of her speech, Harrison alluded to the sometimes “dark” sense of foreboding that comes over the industry at the hands of much of the national media.

“But you are not powerless – the ability to change public perception lies entirely within your hands,” she added.

She said it was time to make “big, bold gestures to demonstrate a real commitment to fairer and safer gambling,” 

As well as an independent ombudsman scheme for consumers, she suggested these should include a proper and sustainable approach to funding research, education and treatment of harmful gambling that extends beyond donating a “rudimentary percentage of GGY”, and changing the industry business model to depend less on “larger spenders” (high rollers).

Harrison added that it was also time to “bring an end to the normalisation of gambling as an activity, for children and young people,” calling for advertising of gambling products to be curbed on social media and at major sports events.

On the industry approach to problem gambling, she added: “Making gambling safer and reducing harm will not be delivered simply by GambleAware receiving and using the 0.1%. They are just one part of the system. In truth much more significant investment will be needed to meet treatment needs, to ensure high quality research and to provide proper education about the risks from gambling.”

Harrison also pointed to further regulatory interventions on the way for the online space, revealing that as well as continuing to work with partner regulators – the CMA, ASA and ICO, the Gambling Commission would reinforce this by “proposing changes to our regulations that allow us to enforce theirs using our sanctions.”

Further, a review of how the market has evolved since the introduction of the point-of-consumption regime in 2014 “will shine a light on the need for stronger age verification and more effective customer due diligence checks at the start, and at every stage of the customers’ relationship with the gambling operator”, Harrison told the audience assembled at ICE this morning.

Harrison was also critical of the industry’s propensity to use scantily clad women to attract attention to their products, and called for an end to the practice.

The soon-to-depart boss of the regulator is also giving the Global Gaming Women keynote address at 14:15 on Wednesday 7 February as part of the Diversity & Inclusion with GGW seminar at ICE, taking place in South Gallery Rooms 13 & 14.

Subscribe to the iGaming newsletter