Having shared a speaking platform with Matthew Hill, Director of Regulatory Risk & Analysis at the Gambling Commission, we know that his views are always well expressed and worth listening to. The Commission has published the text of his recent speech at the World Regulatory Briefing on the subject of “The future role of responsible gambling in legislation and licence conditions”, that can be downloaded below.
With words that could well prove prophetic, he concluded his speech as follows:
Some may argue that we are approaching something of a tipping point in terms of public tolerance for gambling. The furore around FOBTs, concerns around the huge increase in TV advertising in recent years, the ubiquitous high street presence of gambling businesses – all these and more have combined to make the environment around gambling as toxic as it has ever been. The calls for greater prescription and just simply for “something” to be done are growing.
Choices facing the industry
It seems to me that there are really two doors out of this room.
One door leads to greater constraint; ever tightening legislation and regulation, greater controls on products and their deployment to allay public fears. It leads to constraints on the freedom of responsible adults to make their own decisions about how they spend their leisure time and money. To constraints on the ability of the industry to innovate. And to constraints on the quality of the entertainment product offered to consumers. This is the door that is opened by industry’s failure to act.
The other leads to a somewhat sunnier place. It involves the industry – and its leaders – understanding and taking public concern seriously and responding to it by devising and testing practical measures to reduce harm. It will involve recognising and accepting that significant proportions of industry revenue are likely to be sourced from people who are not exercising sufficient control over their gambling, and – the difficult part– doing something about it. It will involve confronting the fact that the anonymity that characterises most terrestrial gambling makes it much harder to make progress – recognising of course some of the considerable issues involving privacy and big brother concerns involved in its removal.
But if the public concern is recognised and accepted and engaged with, it offers the prospect of sustainable, responsible and respected business. It also offers a much greater prospect of society getting focused properly on what gambling is supposed to be about – which is a safe, enjoyable experience for all those who want to participate.