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Dugher to take over as BGC chair as Simmonds departs

| By Kyle Goldsmith
Brigid Simmonds will step down as the Betting and Gaming Council (BGC) chairman in April, to be replaced by Michael Dugher, whose role as chief executive will be vacated until a replacement is found.

Simmonds had been the BGC chair since its inception in 2019, overseeing attempts to represent the UK’s gambling industry.

She will be replaced by Michael Dugher, who will leave his role as the body’s chief executive, on 21 April. The BGC stated the search for a new chief executive will begin “shortly”.

In a statement, Simmonds said: “It has been a privilege to play my part in the development of the BGC since its formation in 2019 and it has been an honour to represent the 110,000 people whose jobs rely on the regulated betting and gaming industry.

“I have thoroughly enjoyed working with our members, large and small, to raise standards, create a culture of safer gaming and build public and institutional trust in our world class industry.

“I would like to thank the executive committee, colleagues, members, charities and stakeholders, who have supported me and worked very hard to deliver all of the achievements of which the BGC is rightly proud.”

Dugher to oversee white paper transition

Upon taking over from Simmonds, Dugher will be tasked with overseeing the implementation of the white paper. Released in April 2023, the white paper outlined how gambling should be regulated in the UK.

The Council broadly backed the government’s gambling white paper, particularly in relation to casino reform. The white paper includes proposals on affordability checks, sports betting and machine numbers.

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.

After the culture, media and sport committee (CMS) called for a reduction in visible gambling advertising in stadiums, the BGC praised the rejection of a blanket ban that some had called for.

The BGC also urged for a code on sport sponsorship to be “published without delay” to “drive up standards”.

BGC under fire from some quarters

Despite its role in representing the gambling industry, not all of the BGC’s work has been well received.

In an article for iGB, industry expert Jon Bruford argued the BGC is instead further polarising the two opposing sides. Bruford questioned whether the body is fit for purpose.

Bruford claimed the BGC exists only “for its own luxury”, before criticising the BGC’s lack of action on advertising within sports stadia in a separate article.

Meanwhile, the BGC had to defend Dugher in August, after the then-chief executive cited Samaritans’ advice that “suicide is complex” when giving evidence to the culture, media and sport select committee on gambling in July 2023.

Responding to the Samaritans complaint, the BGC denied that Dugher attempted to “manipulate guidance”, describing the accusations as “a smear”.  

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