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BGC: White paper must draw a line under “polarised” debates on gambling

| By Robin Harrison
The Gambling Act white paper is a “once in a generation moment for change” and should draw a line under the “lengthy and often polarised debates” around the industry in recent years, according to the Betting and Gaming Council (BGC).

BGC chief executive Michael Dugher welcomed the publication of the Gambling Act review after delays stretching back years. While the association needed time to consider the full detail and impacts of the government’s proposals, he stressed the BGC had worked closely with the government to deliver “a wide-ranging package of balanced, proportionate and effective reforms”. 

“Our members generate £7.1bn for the economy and raise £4.2bn in tax every year and the measures announced today should protect jobs and sustain that vital contribution, while also building on our own work to drive world-leading standards in safer gambling,” Dugher said. 

Collaboration between government, industry and regulator

The association will now work with the government and Gambling Commission to ensure a number of key elements of the review are delivered. This includes “targeted and genuinely ‘frictionless’ enhanced spending checks”. 

As culture secretary Lucy Frazer outlined earlier today, the government plans to introduce checks. These start at moderate levels of spend, for net losses of £125 within a month or £500 within a year. More detailed “but still frictionless” checks kick in for losses of £1,000 within 24 hours or £2,000 within 90 days. 

The BGC also supports plans for a new ombudsman to rule on customers’ complaints relating to social responsibility or gambling harm, and “overdue” plans to modernise casino regulation. Dugher also hailed a consultation on online slot stake limits and the focus on protecting young people. 

Michael Dugher
BGC CEO Dugher pledges to support new measures such as affordability checks

Reform campaigners were vociferous in calling for affordability checks at a lower rate, and bans on advertising, sponsorship and bonusing. However Dugher praised the government for balancing the level of change in the white paper.

“We welcome the decision to reject proposals from anti-gambling prohibitionists for blanket, low-level and intrusive affordability checks, as well as their calls for bans on advertising, sports sponsorship and consumer promotions, which would harm our best-loved sports like horseracing and football, threaten jobs and drive customers to the growing unsafe, unregulated gambling black market online.”

In response to the stature levy for research, education and treatment, he pointed to BGC members’ voluntary commitment of £110m to tackle gambling related harm. “We have previously called for these enhanced contributions to be made mandatory and we welcome measures to make that happen.”

Drawing a line under the gambling harm debate

With the government’s proposals finally published, the BGC will now look to deliver changes as quickly as possible. As consultations around the proposals begin, members would concentrate efforts on protecting the young and the vulnerable, and deploying technology to protect problem gamblers without impacting the experience for sustainable bettors, Dugher said. 

“These proposed measures will mean significant change but hopefully much needed regulatory stability to ensure our members can focus entirely on delivering for customers.”

It should bring an end to the long-running discourse on gambling harms in Great Britain, Dugher added. 

“This white paper is a once in a generation moment for change and its publication must draw a line under the lengthy and often polarised debates on gambling,” he said. “Betting and gaming is popular, contrary to misconceptions, the numbers of people betting are stable and not increasing, problem gambling rates are stable and low and our members are a genuine British business success story, ploughing billions into the economy. 

“The focus should now be on continuing to drive higher standards, while investing in jobs and businesses in the UK’s world leading regulated industry.” 

Entain CEO: Review an important step towards regulations for the digital age

Operators’ reaction has been broadly muted, with some telling iGB the BGC would lead the response to the Gambling Act white paper. 

Jette Nygaard-Andersen
Entain CEO Hails Clarity the white paper brings for the industry and customers

Entain chief executive Jette Nygaard-Andersen said the business “looked forward” to working with the government and the Commission on the implementation of the proposals.

Nygaard-Andersen welcomed the clarity the white paper brings for the industry and customers, highlighting the operator’s efforts to better protect its players. 

She listed measures such as Entain’s Advanced Responsibility and Care safer gaming programme and personalised slot stake limits.

“We are also extremely proud to have led the industry in 2019 by voluntarily agreeing to increase our levy donations to 1% of our UK gross gaming revenues.”

In anticipation of reform, Entain implemented a number of proactive safer gambling initiatives; the impact of which has been absorbed into the company’s FY23 expectations.

 As a result, the company said it forecast “no material change” to the year’s outlook, and for the measures to have an impact of less than 1% GGR in FY24.

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