There are those that say the UK Gambling Commission is staffed by fools, that they cannot possibly understand their mandate. I think they do.
In similar vein, others argue they’re toothless, without purpose, a waste of money.
I don’t buy into either of those arguments. Would it surprise those of you, who do not know me, that I favour a stronger, more powerful regulator?
I’m reading everywhere, that the Commission takes ‘very seriously’ the problem gambling culture of the United Kingdom. They expect the operators to behave responsibly and whereupon they do not, they can expect large fines, or even license review.
I read they complain about dolly birds at trade fairs dominated by operators. Big deal.
I don’t hear them protecting children from Ray Winstone on their televisions at 8am. I do see them shutting the stable door after the horse has bolted – they work back to front, because that keeps the operators in money, they allow people to see gambling marketing at every turn, (exacerbating problem gambling levels,) then want the operators to pay for the problem gambling culture after its created. In simple terms – they work backwards.
Children caught in the headlamps of these companies.
They’re not serious. In fact they’re a morally bankrupt and irresponsible body.
GAMBLING COMMISSION ON OPERATORS
In the last two years, Gala Coral committed two offences in breach of money laundering regulations. In both cases the company allowed individuals to gamble away a huge amount of money, without appropriate checks being made.
888Sport allowed self excluded customers to wager in other companies it controls. It had to have been informed by those self same customers when they lost monies that they had in fact self excluded.
888Sport are still in business today.
You can gamble 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. There’s no watershed as in for example lottery operators. You can fund your account with a credit card, with monies you do not have. You can wager an incredible £100 a spin, multiple times an hour, or minute even in a betting shop. Indeed the Gambling Act created the environment whereupon a casino replaced WH Smith in your High Street. You can back a horse that’s fallen on exchanges, a form of organised fraud.
Watch a game of cricket, and you’ll be assaulted by a buffet of online operators, peddling their wares, headed by Hollywood hard man Ray Winstone on behalf of Bet365, shoving you into his ‘in play.’ We’ve become used to it. We’ve become immune from the harm it creates and the impact on children.
Racing channels totally ruled by their betting sponsors. Racetracks dependent on the betting cash from gaming companies. The leading trade paper totally, and unapologetically, subservient to its betting partners.
Customers given bonuses and inducements in several forms to encourage them into insidious products like gaming. Try closing your account, or stop betting with one of these companies and wait on teaser back to gambling.
Customers widely reporting of account ‘restrictions’ in their betting. Odds being advertised, yet no mandate to lay those odds? Accounts with restrictions been kept open, in deference to share values, yet enquiries for wagers being met with responses offering £0. No explanations for these restrictions. No action from the regulator to ensure betting behemoths actually do what they say on their tins. If you advertise a price, you surely have to lay that price to all?
Where in the Gambling Commission’s drive on bookmaker’s ‘terms and conditions’ is their focus on actually ‘laying a bet’ as part of their conditions of licensing?
In such areas the Gambling Commission ‘passes the buck’ to other agencies such as the ASA, or trading standards. When in fact its knowledge and experience, in hand with an ability to remove licenses, should be acting to ensure their operators offer a level playing field and never post odds they’re not bound to lay. This regulator says its ok for an operator to post 10/1 Altior – but doesn’t have to lay it? Protection of the commercial interest of these bookmakers over requiring them to uphold their advertising!
The mandate of this Gambling Commission isn’t so much ‘the protection of the vulnerable’ unless you logically conclude the ‘vulnerable’ are in fact offshore gaming giants.
Point of consumption arrangements for offshore companies allow the UK to pay into the UK treasury, and the Commission’s remit isn’t to stand in the way of those arrangements. If it did, it would clearly be seen to cut the ability of companies based in overseas territories to advertise to the home market. This cosy deal between our the UK Government and the operators severely disadvantages those who choose to actually base business here.
A Government permitting offshore companies to flourish, at the expense of those who base business in the UK. The objective of good governance is to encourage companies to operate within the confines and control of the state. Any other arrangement represents corruption in Government.
Whilst tobacco and alcohol advertising are strictly controlled, we seem to have to re-invent the wheel for betting adverts. The Gambling Commission has no official position on the volume or scale of betting advertising. Said advertising and sponsorship is fast approaching a spend of 1 billion pounds a year. (Growth in spend between 2012 and 2016 was 46% to 456 million.)
Position of the Gambling Commission on fixed odds betting terminals in betting shops? None
Position of the Gambling Commission on Bet365’s illegal operations in China (as widely reported by the Chinese Government) None
Gambling Commission executives argue that if an advert is ‘responsible’ that it passes the test. This wouldn’t be the view of millions of sensible people. It’s a clear defence of commercial self interest.
Am I the only one to think if you’re bombarded with marketing multiple times an hour that that simply exacerbates the problem gambling culture?
Under the new UK licensing regime, operators deriving more than 3% of revenues from distinct international markets must disclose details of those businesses to the regulator, and provide a legal opinion justifying operations in those foreign markets. 20 major operators now base themselves fully abroad living off of grey earnings. The largest online operator under UK tax and regulation is, in fact, Geoff Banks.
Bet365 are capable of bringing in a half a billion of offshore earnings into the UK market every year. They use those monies to establish dominance, and distort, the UK market place.
.It’s hard to conclude therefore, given all these evident facts, that this Gambling Commission is in any way serious about the control of problem gambling, For as long as its stance is to create a pleasing environment which encourages offshore gaming companies to behave in exactly the way they please, to advertise so voluminously, it remains my steadfast conclusion the Gambling Commission is quite simply not fit for purpose. All this at a time when the outgoing CEO appeared far more robust than her predecessor. The organisation is a paper tiger.
As this regulator presses ahead with changes to self exclusion schemes, they will create an environment where black market operations actively flourish. Once you design self exclusion schemes which have punters self excluding one day then trying to find an alternate avenue to wager the next, and you mandate operators not to do business with them for six months minimum, and then undertake never to contact them? That’s an invitation to the unregulated black market. Such schemes, whilst well meaning, remain spectacularly ill thought through.
The Gambling Commission would be better re-branded the marketing arm of gaming companies. I’ve never been one to pander to flim – flam. Less of the focus on pole dancers at industry shows, more on why companies are allowed to associate the word ‘Fun’ with responsible.
I’ve met the people working for the Gambling Commission.As they sit at their desks today checking to see if websites have think 21 signs and a link to links to responsible gambling helplines, ponder that you’re in fact doing far more protection of operators than regulating. No career bookmaker, or educated punter, would conclude different from this analysis of your performance.