Sarah Harrison, chief executive of the Gambling Commission, warned industry stakeholders that the levels of public scrutiny the UK gambling sector had experienced over the past 12 months would not abate in the coming months and responsible gambling policies would take on even more prominence.
Delivering the keynote address at the World Regulatory Briefing held in London on Thursday, Harrison said: “Advertising, fixed odds betting terminals, lone workers in betting shops, crime linked to gambling, issues around the normalisation of gambling in British society, have all been topics for debate and serve to raise the prominence of gambling and associated issues in people’s minds.
“The high-profile public debate over fixed odds betting terminals – a hard form of gambling – is not going to fade away. Recently we have seen a new All Party Parliamentary Group established that is seeking evidence on the impact of these machines.”
The Gambling Commission boss reiterated her view that the industry also had to do more when it came to addressing customer complaints and simplify its advertising messages. Her key point however was that stakeholders should commit to increased funding into problem gambling.
UK gambling operators currently contribute on a voluntary basis £6.5m for research, education and treatment of problem gambling. “By contrast £120m was spent on TV advertising in the same year. That cannot be right. £6.5m is nowhere near enough,” Harrison said.
“If the RGT were able to rely on a minimum of 0.1% of every operator’s GGY, that would provide a ballpark figure of £10-£11m – which is beginning to be a much more credible sum for such an important task. How can it be fair that some operators, large and small, contribute year in and year out while others get a free ride?
“I know that RGT would welcome a more robust arrangement, for example under which the industry agrees and codifies a common approach. GB operators now face a key opportunity – to give credible commitment to the voluntary based system for supporting research, education and treatment, or face stronger calls for mandatory action.”
The launch of a new National Responsible Gambling Strategy will set the agenda for addressing problem gambling-related issues and for Kate Lampard, the first independent chairman of the Responsible Gambling Trust, to develop the research plan and secure the funding which will implement the National Strategy over the next three years.
Harrison concluded her keynote by calling on the gambling sector to mirror others involved in fighting cyber threat and crime, data and system security, which “is characterised by professional collaboration and intelligence sharing across business, markets and borders”.