About-turn as RAiG announces support in principle for a licensing regime for affiliates

In a complete about-turn from its previous firmly adopted position (quoted by David Clifton in the current edition of iGB’s Affiliate Monitor entitled “The affiliate sector and the Covid-19 crisis”), Responsible Affiliates in Gambling (“RAiG”) has announced its support for a licensing or registration regime for gambling affiliates.

Its press release published today (30 June 2020) states as follows:

Following a thorough internal review, Responsible Affiliates in Gambling (RAiG) has today announced that it would support in principle the introduction of a statutory licensing or registration regime for affiliates who are active in the British gambling market, subject to the detail of any proposed system and the clear identification of the benefits that it would provide to consumers.

RAiG’s core aim is to foster wider initiatives in the UK affiliate marketing sector to promote social responsibility and create a safer gambling environment for consumers. Although much can be done on a voluntary basis in pursuit of that, it has been concluded that the right way to ensure that standards rise across the whole sector is for minimum requirements to be set out and implemented by way of some form of licensing or registration process.

Although the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) oversees the regulation of all forms of advertising, it is not a licensing body, nor is it a statutory regulator. It is therefore suggested that a licensing or registration role might best be fulfilled by the Gambling Commission.

In reaching that conclusion, RAiG noted that there are already precedents where the Commission has applied some form of direct licensing or authorisation to third party suppliers (for example, Gambling Software Provider licences; and the provision of approved lists of Alternative Dispute Resolution providers, and Software Testing Houses).

Such a system need not be expensive nor burdensome given that this approach is designed to supplement an already extensive range of regulations.

Commenting on the decision, RAIG’s chairman, Clive Hawkswood, said:

“The decision to support the principle of a licensing or registration system was not taken lightly and we have been assessing the pros and cons for many months. This issue will achieve greater prominence as the Government’s review of the Gambling Act 2005 picks up pace and it is vital that we play a constructive role as policies evolve rather than waiting on the side-lines for measures to be imposed.

It is appreciated that this is an issue where opinion across the sector is divided and RAiG will make clear that, as with any trade body, it can only speak on behalf of its members. Despite that, we hope everyone in the affiliate marketing world and beyond will keep an open mind about any proposals which would serve to create a safer gambling environment. As with all forms of licensing and regulation, the devil is usually in the detail and the aim must be to work with all stakeholders to ensure that any provisions are proportionate and, most important of all, effective in improving safeguards for consumers.”

As the press release makes clear, this is another example of a gambling industry body coming to the conclusion that – before any legislative change is forced upon it – it is better to make its position clear on a subject that is likely to come up for otherwise contentious debate in the forthcoming UK Government review of the Gambling Act 2005.

UPDATE: It was announced by iGamingBusiness on 12 January 2021 that, due to his other commitments, Clive Hawkswood is to step down from his role as Chairman of RAiG, with the Racing Post’s Cian Nugent being named his replacement. Nugent is quoted as saying:

I’m pleased to be able to represent our industry during the crucial next phase in the development of policy and regulation of the gambling sector. Our focus will be on education and lobbying and engaging constructively with the government and interested politicians. Affiliates play a key role in providing enjoyable and safe environments for consumers – facts which we want to see recognised in any new laws governing our industry.