In blogs published on the Gambling Commission’s website during this year’s ‘Safer Gambling Week’ (1 to 7 November 2021):
- Andrew Rhodes, the Commission’s CEO has offered his reflections on the subject of safer gambling and the need to see much greater compliance from the industry across the board, and
- Anna van der Gaag CBE, Chair of the Advisory Board for Safer Gambling (ABSG) has reflected on the need for listening, learning and acting when it comes to tackling gambling harms.
Other insightful comments by Andrew Rhodes feature in an article within the 4 November 2021 edition of The Racing Post entitled ‘We still see far too many extreme cases’ – Gambling Commission chief speaks out.
You can read below each of the above-mentioned blogs and selected comments made by Andrew Rhodes in The Racing Post article.
1. Andrew Rhodes blog
Gambling is normal but harm must not be. We will continue to work to drive the levels of harm down. There are still far too many operators not abiding by our rules and that is not acceptable. We want a constructive relationship with industry. But it must be on the basis of compliance and for all the good efforts made, we still see too many instances of things that everyone agrees are things we should not be seeing. These things are not historic – they are happening now.
2. Anna van der Gaag blog
The Racing Post article
Also particularly worthy of note are the following revealing comments by Andrew Rhodes an article in the 4 November 2021 edition of The Racing Post entitled ‘We still see far too many extreme cases’ – Gambling Commission chief speaks out:
- although in general terms be believes that “the industry has the resources, knowledge and ability to achieve a very high level of compliance and safety and a very low level of harms”, there are still “far too many extreme cases that everybody in the industry agrees we should not see”, adding “as one operator said to me today, ‘We have to stop the own goals’. I think Safer Gambling Week is part of that.”
- although there has been a ‘significant decrease’ in the overall problem gambling rate (0.3% in the year to September 2021, compared to 0.6% in the year to September 2020), it is difficult to say whether the reduction is sustainable given the upheaval caused by Covid-19, adding that:
- “everybody is right to treat these with a little bit of caution, not because I think they are wrong – I think they are right – but we need to understand what the continuing trend is because it has been such a disturbed period of time” and that
- there is “a lot of room for improvement”, commenting further that: “there is a lot of variability between operators and we are still seeing a high level of compliance issues in our inspections that we would not expect to see. There are quite a lot of extreme cases of people losing tens of thousands of pounds in a very short window without intervention. We don’t expect perfection but we are not seeing those cases reducing in numbers fast enough. They are not historic cases, as some would argue, they are real time and we are seeing them too often”.
- “A lot of progress has been made and I don’t want to take away from that, but these own goals are why some people think the industry is not taking this seriously.”
Commenting on public and Parliamentary criticisms levelled against the Commission, Rhodes has commented in The Racing Post article:
- on the subject of the collapse of Football Index earlier this year:
- “I don’t accept that we took no steps and had no intervention at all. I think the criticisms that are fair are that we could have drawn things to a close earlier but the outcome would have been the same” and
- “With anything we think is novel and not what we might call more typical gambling, we now look at it differently in terms of what might its risk profile be in future, what exposure might it have”
- on the subject of highly critical reports published last year by the National Audit Office, the Gambling Related Harm APPG and the House of Commons Public Accounts Committee in relation to what he described as “an emotive, charged, political and opinion-heavy sector”:
- “There are things that we need to do better and I think there always will be” and
- “The industry is 800 times the size of the Gambling Commission, so in order to get the best outcomes you need to focus on where you can get the greatest impact with those resources and I think that’s a key focus.”
- on the subject of the ongoing investigation into “the competence and effectiveness of the regulator of British gambling, the Gambling Commission”,currently being undertaken by the Parliamentary All Party Betting & Gaming Group (APBGG):
- “If there are organisations that feel abject terror from the regulator I would be surprised. It’s definitely true there are operators who do not like being on the wrong end of enforcement action so the very easy answer to that is comply with the regulations and it won’t happen.”
- on the subject of the Commission’s Remote Customer Interaction Consultation and Call for Evidence (that ran between November 2020 and February 2021) and, in particular, its proposal “to introduce stronger requirements, including that operators must conduct defined affordability assessments at thresholds set by the Commission“:
- “I think this is something that will most likely form part of our advice around the Gambling Act review. We don’t plan to introduce something right now – but that doesn’t mean to say we are going to wait for the final culmination of the Gambling Act review if we think there are things that we need to do to safeguard consumers.”
- on the subject of the potential illegal online gambling black market risk in the event that overly restrictive gambling regulatory requirements (such as more stringent affordability checks) are introduced:
- although such a risk does exist, he thinks: “we have to be careful not to overstate it and what we can’t do is use it as a reason not to raise standards within the legitimate licensed industry. We can’t have a race to the bottom.”
- on the subject of fears that a ‘singular customer view’, under which information from different gambling operators could be shared, could potentially lead to betting operators closing down accounts of successful customers:
- “Single customer view is about triggers of harm behaviour, not triggers of successful gambling. If the industry tried to build that you would see intervention from the regulator because that would be going well beyond what we are trying to do.”
- on the subject of the future role of the Gambling Commission:
- although his ideal scenario is for it to get to the position “where all we have to do is issue licences”, the Commission “will never get all the way there but that is really where I would like us to be. We shouldn’t need to take action.”