Today has witnessed the launch of the Betting and Gaming Council (“BGC”), a replacement trade body for the Remote Gambling Association and the Association of British Bookmakers that represents 90% of the gambling sector (excluding lotteries), as reported by us in July.
Announcing the launch, the BGC’s Chairman, Brigid Simmonds OBE, has said:
Today, I’m delighted to announce the launch of the Betting and Gaming Council (BGC), a single voice for the industry (excluding lotteries). The BGC comes together with a view to tackling the challenges facing the UK’s betting and gaming industry.
From today, betting shops, online betting and gaming businesses and casinos will be working together, sharing best practice to ensure the highest standards in safer gambling under the BGC.
Today’s announcement marks the start of an exciting journey for the sector, and we’re thrilled that such a diverse group of sector-leading businesses has decided to join – from some of the UK’s largest operators to some of the smallest. Our goal is to champion industry standards in betting and gaming to foster an enjoyable, fair and safe betting and gaming experience for all our customers.
In order to achieve this, the BGC has identified areas where more can be done to promote enjoyable and safe play. Over the next year, you can expect a series of wide-ranging initiatives and announcements – from new technology to help bookmakers identify erratic betting behaviour, to proposals for improving advertising standards and initiatives to educate consumers on the risks associated with betting and gaming.
There are several areas where our industry can be doing more to educate both the public and key decision-makers (and everyone in between) to champion the value of our industry and the people who engage with, work in or are interested in betting and gaming.
We are committed to fostering a close working relationship with government, the Gambling Commission, third sector groups and most importantly our customers to improve standards and build public and institutional trust in the industry.
We believe that this can be achieved by implementing a progressive new code of conduct, which all members must adhere to. Further, we will introduce a range of issue-specific codes of practice, focusing on topics such as advertising, the protection of young people, and staff training which aim to deliver the highest standards across the industry.
We have several new announcements that we will launch in the coming days. If you’d like to be kept up to date with our work moving forward, follow us on Twitter at @BetGameCouncil. I hope that you are as excited as I am about our plans for the coming year.
Safer Gambling Commitments
The key news item arising from today’s launch is an announcement (by the Chief Executives of Aspers, bet365, Caesars, Flutter Entertainment, Genting, GVC, Playtech, Rank Group, Sky Betting & Gaming and William Hill) of five core safer gambling commitments, with 22 new actions to address the harm gambling can cause to customers and young people.
The BGC maintains that these safer gambling commitments (set out below), development of which was facilitated and coordinated by the Senet Group, represent “the most comprehensive set of measures from a wide group of leaders across the sector to support the UK Gambling Commission’s National Strategy to Reduce Gambling Harms”, adding that they will:
- “deliver long-term and fundamental changes in how gambling companies are run in the UK and how they empower, protect and support their customers” and
- “be delivered by working groups and subject matter experts drawn from across the gambling industry”.
The key actions under the Safer Gambling Commitments are described as follows:
1. Prevent underage gambling and protect young people: prevent underage gambling on their platforms and introduce the most effective protections for early stage customers of any age-restricted product category
- Provide £10m of funding for a national education programme designed and delivered by relevant experts for children and young people over the next four years
- Work with the financial services industry to block gambling transactions on accounts held by under-18s
- Work with advertising bodies to explore using adtech to prevent under-18s seeing gambling adverts online
2. Increase support for treatment of gambling harm: support the scaling up of treatment services across the UK by recognised treatment providers as part of a long-term strategic plan
- We will engage with national stakeholders and recognised treatment and support providers as they map capacity requirements alongside gaining a comprehensive understanding of need and agree increased financial support over the next five years that supports delivery of this strategic plan.
3. Strengthen and expand codes of practice for advertising and marketing: develop and adopt the highest standards in marketing and advertising codes of conduct
- Commission an independent review into the effectiveness and impact of the whistle-to-whistle television advertising ban
- Develop and adopt a new Code of Conduct for sponsorship activities, including integrating safer gambling into brand activation in consultation with sports clubs, rights holders and advertising bodies by 2020
- Develop a new Code of Conduct for Responsible Promotions, including bonuses, customer contact, VIP promotions and rewards
4. Protect and empower our customers: introduce new player protections in product design and customer engagement, making it easier for people to gamble safely
- Create new industry-wide standards to embed safer gambling practices throughout the customers’ gambling experience, including publishing a minimum set of markers of harm and interventions to identify and interact with at-risk customers
- Work with operators and industry partners to devise and implement best practice in relation to identifying and interacting with at-risk customers via affordability assessments
- Work with the banking industry to encourage all banks to offer blocking software
- Develop clear and consistent product labelling and product information to help customers make informed choices
- Working with government and the regulator, we will explore creating a mechanism to enable gambling companies to share data on vulnerable or at-risk customers
5. Promote a culture of safer gambling: create a positive culture within both their businesses and the industry, where safer and well-controlled gambling is the norm
- Commit our businesses to achieve GamCare’s Safer Gambling Standard and to work towards achieving the Advanced Level Awards
- Ensure all participating operators have an appropriate Employee Safer Gambling Policy setting out actions to deliver these commitments, including internal training programmes to build awareness, capability and capacity on Safer Gambling practices and standards across our workforce
- Develop an open source collaboration repository for all gambling companies to access safer gambling tools, open source code and share best practice to raise safety standards across the industry.
One of the first actions being announced today is a new four-year national campaign to educate young people, which is being shaped and delivered by two charities, GamCare and YGAM. The charities will work with young people, their parents, families and the youth professional workforce to improve awareness and understanding of the risks associated with gambling. The Commitments will also see the development of new codes of conduct for direct and affiliate marketing and sponsorship activities.
To ensure transparency, the signatories have committed that the Safer Gambling Commitments will be regularly and publicly reported on, with an independent monitoring and evaluation process consistent with the best practice approach used by public bodies, including the Gambling Commission, HM Treasury and UK Evaluation Society.
Commenting on the announcement, Brigid Simmonds has said:
I am delighted to be launching the Betting and Gaming Council and to welcome these commitments from the chief executives. The commitments are a major step towards preventing underage gambling and addressing harm. Working together as an industry we will create a culture of safer gambling – increasing the competency of professionals who educate young people, increasing support for treatment, strengthening and expanding codes of practice and empowering consumers. These are commitments that the BGC champion and drive forward to build public and institutional trust in our industry.
Peter Jackson, Chief Executive of Flutter Entertainment, has said:
These commitments are an important step forward for the sector in their own right and also signal a genuine desire to ensure that acting responsibly is at the heart of our businesses.
Gambling Commission executive director Tim Miller is quoted in the Racing Post as reacting to today’s announcement as follows:
We have been encouraged by moves across the industry in recent months to work together on player protection and we hope this programme marks another step forward by gambling companies in delivering on the ambitions in the National Strategy.
UPDATE: As reported by SBC News on 13 November 2019, the BGC has developed a new ‘cooling-off’ feature for gaming terminals – the Anonymous Player Awareness System (APAS) – which is due to be introduced across UK betting shops and should serve to assist in identifying signs of potentially harmful gambling behaviour. The real-time APAS algorithm will trigger an alert on-screen and force a break in play or ‘cooling-off period’, simultaneously alerting staff. Interim BGC Chief Executive Wes Himes is quoted as saying: “I see this as an opportunity to champion the highest standards and share best practice on safe betting and gaming, and we hope these new measures are a sign of intent. I’m convinced that this approach can help restore public trust, and I look forward to working on further safer betting and gaming initiatives across our industry.”