Operators vent against Commission in DCMS evidence call
The submissions came during a call for evidence for the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) select committee inquiry into gambling regulation.
A number of the UK’s leading gambling operators, such as Bet365, Flutter, 888, Entain, Novomatic, Merkur and Kindred made submissions.
While the submissions greatly varied in both content and form, a number of key themes emerged – including frustration at the Gambling Commission’s conduct and scepticism at the feasibility of affordability checks.
Frustration at Commission
Flutter Entertainment – the largest online gambling business in the world by revenue – warned that the establishment of a clear process for implementation, following the release of the white paper, would be key to its success.
“The reason for this is that we have concerns about the general consultation process used by the Gambling Commission,” said Flutter.
The company said that it put a great deal of effort into responding to Commission consultations, emphasising that it not only provided the requested evidence, but sought to explain the issues involved in the implementation and offer its interpretation of the requirements.
But Flutter added that it is “rare” for the business’ feedback to be reflected in the final outcome.
“It is even rarer for the Gambling Commission to provide feedback on our response so that, for example, we can understand why our evidence was not seemingly taken into account in that final outcome,” added the business.
The company therefore encouraged both the DCMS and the regulator to ensure that talks going forward are “iterative discussions”.
Flutter also said that the Commission has on a “consistent basis seriously underestimated the complexity of the technology operated by licensees”.
The company continued by arguing that it was important that the Gambling Commission not only allows sufficient time for considered responses to be made to its consultations, but also provides “reasonable timeframes for implementation of any regulatory changes”.
Response from Bally’s
This call to ensure that the regulator best implements the aforementioned reforms was echoed by Bally’s Corporation who argued that it was a priority for the Commission to “enforce the spirit of the upcoming regulation”.
Bally’s Corporation also noted that the Commission had not always adopted the most effective regulation.
“Many of the approaches embraced by the Gambling Commission involve population-wide measures that do not consider emerging technologies that improve the confidence level of targeted regulation,” read Bally’s submission document.
Frustration at the behaviour of the Commission was seconded in Entain’s submitted evidence, which argued that the regulator would be more effective if it “adopted a co-operative rather than confrontational approach”, as well as better respected the interests of non-problem gamblers in its approaches to policy.
As such, it proposed a number of recommendations to improve the Commission’s relationship with the industry and be generally more competent in its work.
These eleven proposals included the idea that the Commission should be required to recruit from the industry, that regulatory initiatives be independently tested against the risk of customer departure from the licensed market and that the Commission starts to regulate in “a predictable and transparent manner” – including published tariffs for offences of varying severity.
A number of operators also expressed concerns about the imposition of affordability checks on consumers, a matter which remains one of the most controversial potential provisions of the white paper.
Entain argued that the legislation of these requirements would have a “profound” influence on the development of the black market.
The operator pointed to survey data that showed that one in three players would consider betting on an unlicensed casino operator if these checks were introduced.
On the other hand, Bet365 was less critical of the measure, highlighting that in anticipation of the review, it had implemented voluntary action on deposit limits for new customers.
However, the Stoke-based operator also argued that affordability checks need to balance “the need to protect those at-risk with the interests of the vast majority of people who gamble without experiencing harm”.
It therefore applauded the content of the speech by former gambling minister Paul Scully at the Betting and Gaming Council’s (BGC) annual general meeting, wherein he emphasised the need to make this process frictionless, as well as based on “financial risk”.
“We agree with the comments of the former minister that such checks must be tried and tested before they are implemented and stand ready to support this process,” said Bet365.
Flutter said that “very careful” thought was required when it came to affordability checks, which it warned could lead to “hundreds of thousands of Flutter customers facing untested and undeveloped background checks”, and therefore was the area of the white paper which caused the operator the most concern.
While it said that it understood the checks are intended to happen in the background, it also said there was “a lack of clarity” over how this would work and what data would be considered.
“We strongly believe that operators are the best people to manage the customer relationship and we encourage the government to look to build on our existing data and risk-based approaches to customer protection,” said Flutter.