Self-regulation versus Regulation

David Clifton is quoted in an EGR Compliance cover feature article that poses the question: “Can self-regulation realistically become the main governing mechanism for operators’ conduct in the gaming sector, or will regulators always need to be behind the wheel as the industry changes and evolves?”. 

The article (that can be downloaded below) raises some interesting points. In our view:

  • Whilst successful self-regulation would most certainly have improved the gambling industry’s public image had it been effectively implemented years ago, increased self-regulation could well now be an impossible dream, in the near future at least. The days of seeking to free business from “red tape” – as New Labour attempted when setting up the Better Regulation Task Force in 1997 and David Cameron sought to do with his 2011 “Red Tape Challenge” – seem now to be long behind us and very unlikely to be allowed to an industry that is presently held in such low public esteem.
  • Whilst the ABB’s attempt to self-regulate FOBTs was hardly a resounding success, the Gambling Industry Code for Socially Responsible Gambling is an obvious example of self-regulation that has worked effectively for many years. However, it is now facing criticism from some quarters that it should have been tightened up far sooner in response to massively publicised public, regulatory and parliamentary concerns over the volume and content of gambling advertising. It remains to be seen whether the voluntary pre-9pm “whistle to whistle” sports betting advertising ban coming into force next summer has done sufficient to assuage those concerns to justify removal of the threat of greater regulatory restrictions on advertising being compulsorily imposed on the industry.
  • Another area of self-regulation under threat is the level of voluntary donations towards research, education and treatment of problem gamblers, as evidenced by:
    • the new Gambling Minister, Mims Davies MP, warning at last month’s annual GambleAware Harm Minimisation conference that a mandatory levy will be imposed if the present voluntary system doesn’t work and
    • the Labour Party’s call for a compulsory levy on gambling operators of 1% of GGY.
  • Based on the experience of the last year, rather than the gambling industry showing that it can self-regulate, it is surely more essential that it shows that it can (and will) comply with existing regulations. Unfortunately, as has so often been the case, it is a few bad apples that have spoilt the entire barrel. We are not talking here about genuine human mistake or accidental technology failures. We are referring to systemic failings that have been so serious they have given the impression of a complete disregard of regulation. In our view, the industry regrettably has a mountain to climb in terms of restoring sufficient public trust to enable it to mount a credible argument that it should be allowed a greater degree of self-regulation in future.

Note: Picking up on the same theme, as we have reported separately, at 10.30am on 4 February 2019 at ICE VOX (taking place at ExCel London), David Clifton will join the following industry leaders in a debate entitled: “Stricter regulatory enforcement makes consumer protection impossible. Operators must self-regulate instead”:

  • Philip Bowcock, CEO, William Hill
  • Paris Smith, CEO, Pinnacle
  • Richard Flint, Executive Chairman, Sky Betting and Gaming and
  • Martin Lycka, Director of Regulatory Affairs, GVC Group.