Interesting points to note from UKGC CEO’s speech ahead of Gambling Act review

Neil McArthur, CEO of the UK’s Gambling Commission delivered an interesting keynote speech at the CMS Gambling Conference in London on 22 January 2020.

McArthur commenced his speech (that you can download below) with the following three key messages:

  • there is an increasing focus on consumers and the way they gamble, especially online, with consumer confidence in decline for years,
  • operators and their representatives are changing, with CEOs, Boards and industry trade bodies committed to making gambling safer, and
  • regulation is constantly changing, it being vitally important that regulation keeps up with the market and operators’ practices.

Other aspects of McArthur’s speech worth noting are listed below:

  1. No doubt with recent outspoken comments from politicians and others in mind, he said that: “more balance to the debate would help all of us. Boiling complex challenges down to soundbites doesn’t really help: I don’t meet with ‘predators’ I meet with people”,
  2. Possibly picking up on his second bullet point above: “I can see that a consensus is building about what needs to be done.  Moreover, it isn’t a consensus born out of a ‘belief’ or assertion about what will work.  It is built on evidence and experience”,
  3. In a similar vein: “The Commission will continue to be tough on those who do not meet our expectations but I am pleased to be able to say that we are seeing signs that behaviour is changing”,
  4. A comment that the industry should bear in mind as the forthcoming review of the Gambling Act 2005 approaches: “I am prepared to work with anyone who shares a willingness to make gambling safer.  I want people to be able to enjoy gambling but not be put at risk. I am also convinced that only a bold and innovative approach will allow us to reduce risk and achieve the reduction in the gambling harms rates that we need to see” and
  5. Reflecting growing ties with international gambling regulators: “I think you will see cross regulator action being taken in the years to come”. 

UPDATE: Somewhat flying in the face of McArthur’s call for more balance to the debate (see point numbered 1 above), Iain Duncan-Smith MP – Vice-Chair of the Gambling Related Harm APGG and former leader of the Conservative Party – has been reported by the BBC as saying just two days later (in relation to the creation of a working group, led by GVC, to address safer gambling issues around the use of VIP inducements to gamble): “The Gambling Commission needs to be reformed. This really does show you where the thinking has gone completely wrong. It’s like putting the mafia in charge of looking into organised crime”. Similar criticisms in relation to all three working groups were also reported in The Guardian in an article entitled “Gambling watchdog under fire over betting firms’ role in addiction taskforce”.