UKGC Consults ‘Experts by Experience’

Following on from a call from MPs last week for a ban on gambling ads, as part of wider industry reform, the Gambling Commission has announced a series of measures moving forward. The regulator has been working with those affected most by gambling harms to shape legislation, which could see an age limit of 25+ placed on VIP schemes. However, rebuttals from the BGC and the AA could put a stop to the proposed ban on gambling ads.

A football match being played at a stadium.

Now that football is finally returning, there are concerns that betting companies could advertise too aggressively to customers. ©Waldemar Brandt/Unsplash

Working with Experts by Experience

The Gambling Commission has opened a consultation on VIP customers, with a view on updating rules for operators interacting with high value patrons. Prior to this consultation, the regulator has already worked closely with the industry on a set of challenges to reduce gambling harms.

The Gambling Commission has already urged operators to pick up the pace when it comes to improving VIP practices, responsible game design and online advertising. With pressure from MPs and the Gambling Related Harm APPG mounting, the regulator is keen to see improvements from the industry.

The Commission has just published a report into the industry’s progress in making gambling safer for customers. The report contains input and challenges from Experts by Experience, a group offering advice, evidence and recommendations. Together, they aim to raise industry standards and establish a permanent advisory group to continue to work with the Commission in the future.

The Experts by Experience group stems from a workshop that took place in March. Individuals with experience of gambling harms were given the opportunity to offer their views on a variety of issues facing the industry right now. This included feedback on VIP schemes, advertising and game design.

The group has also considered how the regulator could continue to work with those with lived experience for the benefit of reducing the risks and harms associated with gambling. Speaking on behalf the Commission, chief executive Neil McArthur praised the work of the Experts by Experience group.

“I am really grateful for the open and constructive way in which members of the interim group have shared their personal experiences of gambling related harm and for everyone’s commitment to work together to tackle these important issues. It is early days and we are learning along the way to ensure that feedback and advice is utilized in the most effective way.”Neil McArthur, Chief Executive, speaking for the Gambling Commission

McArthur explained that the Commission is working on building a formal Advisory Board from the interim group over the next six months. Until then, the group will continue to delve into specific topics each week, such as affordability and online player protections.

The Gambling Commission’s two-month consultation is based upon input from industry body, the Betting and Gaming Council, as well as leading operator GVC. Together, they have produced seven main proposals with the aim of making gambling safer for everyone.

NHS Urges for Ad Restraint

All of this comes quickly off the back of pressure from MPs last week for the regulator to issue a ban on gambling ads. The NHS also weighed in on the argument, urging betting companies not to advertise aggressively now that football has returned.

Claire Murdoch, director of mental health at NHS England, expressed her concerns now that the sporting calendar is getting back on track. Following a long dry spell, in which bookmakers had little in the way of odds to offer, there are worries that betting firms will now over-advertise.

The return of sports is an exciting time for those who have not been able to bet, as well as a relief for betting companies that have seen their income drop during the lockdown. However, aggressive advertising could prove harmful and put strain on the NHS’s problem gambling services. Murdoch also emphasized the existing pressure on NHS staff that are still dealing with the coronavirus pandemic.

Michael Dugher, of the Betting and Gaming Council, countered Murdoch’s warning. Dugher says that the gambling industry has actually strengthened its commitment to protect gamblers from harm during the lockdown. Members of the industry body held off from advertising on TV and radio, instead opting for responsible gambling messaging.

The Advertising Association has also rejected the GRH APPG’s request for a gambling ad ban. The AA’s chief executive, Stephen Woodford, reiterated the association’s support for existing legislation and advertising standards. According to Woodford, an outright ban would be a step too far and could have negative repercussions, in particular for sports.

The AA has confirmed that it backs the Gambling Commission and the ASA when it comes to gambling advertising. It is up to operators to stick to advertising standards, and for standards bodies to oversee this. Rules can then be amended as needed, if sufficient evidence points to a need for legislative change.

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