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Entain’s Grainne Hurst to be new Betting and Gaming Council CEO

| By Nick Brown
Britain’s Betting and Gaming Council (BGC) has announced the appointment of Entain's group corporate affairs director, Grainne Hurst, as the Council's new CEO.

Hurst joins the BGC from her previous role at Entain. The appointment comes as part of a wider restructuring of the BGC’s senior leadership.

It follows January’s announcement that Brigid Simmonds will step down as the BGC’s chair. At the time, it was announced that Michael Dugher would serve as CEO “until a replacement is found”.

Current BGC CEO Michael Dugher will now move to become chair, replacing outgoing chair Brigid Simmonds OBE.

Simmonds has been the BGC chair since its inception in 2019, overseeing the representation of the UK’s gambling industry.

Hurst to take the BGC to the “next level”

The BGC’s outgoing CEO Michael Dugher sees the announcement as “excellent news for both the BGC and its members”.

“Grainne’s wealth of experience, impressive leadership qualities, formidable campaigning skills and acumen will be essential in working with all of our members to take the BGC to the next level,” he said.

“She won a very tough, external recruitment process and clearly demonstrated that she has not only mission critical knowledge and experience in the regulated industry – both online and in the land based sector – but also a strong vision for continued change and improvement at the Betting and Gaming Council.”

Hurst has held a number of senior roles in the land-based and online sectors. Most notably, she has served almost a decade with Entain. During this time, Hurst led the company’s activities and relationships with the government and the public sector. She was also instrumental in leading the company’s rebrand from GVC to Entain.

Hurst is also a board member of the Entain Foundation. This has seen her both create and deliver Entain’s multi-award winning global safer gambling strategy, Changing for the Bettor.

She has also served as a special advisor to the UK government. Hurst studied at King’s College London and Queen Mary University in London.

Among her many career achievements, she also “brings a passion for increasing the number of high profile women in the industry”. This has seen Hurst establish the international arm of Global Gaming Women. The charity now has an extensive presence across the UK, Europe, Australia and New Zealand.

Changes at the Betting and Gaming Council

Brigid Simmonds OBE will step down from the BGC as chair on 20 April, with Dugher now replacing her as chair.

“I am delighted to be joining the BGC at such a crucial time for its members and the millions of customers they serve,” said Hurst. “I am very grateful to Michael Dugher for everything he has done in establishing the BGC and I look forward to working closely with him to move it forward.

“My focus will always be on ensuring that we have a well regulated industry which protects customers and looks after their interests.

“The betting industry in the UK has world leading businesses and iconic brands and I will work hard to ensure they remain so. There is much to be done and I look forward to getting started.”

The appointment was confirmed with members this week following a rigorous external recruitment process.

The appointment was also endorsed by Ian Proctor, executive chairman of Flutter UK&I.

“The BGC’s role has never been as important as we move into a new era where the government and Gambling Commission work with industry to implement the recommendations from the white paper from a year ago,” he said.

“Grainne’s appointment as chief executive is a vital step in ensuring we engage constructively at every level while championing those who work in the industry and offering the best service possible to our customers.”

2024 set to be a crucial year

As per its official communication, the BGC represents over 90 per cent of the regulated betting and gaming industry in the UK. In total its members support 110,000 jobs. They also generate £4.2bn in tax and contribute £7.1bn to the economy.

The implementation of the UK’s white paper will no doubt prove to be a key part of Hurst’s new role. Released in April 2023, the white paper outlined how gambling should be regulated in the UK. The BGC broadly backed the government’s gambling white paper at the time, particularly in relation to casino reform. The white paper also included proposals on affordability checks, sports betting and land-based casinos.

However, in November 2023 the BGC accused the UK government of launching a “stealth tax raid” on casinos. It is estimated that it could cost the industry £5m (€5.8m/$6.4m) per year.

It also noted that casinos contribute £300m annually in taxes. Across the entire economy, the sector provides an estimated £800m a year in gross value. Dugher himself has stated that the “stealth tax” could slow recovery and hamper future growth.

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