Fascinating conversation with a small pool operator yesterday, who runs a little website for punters to try to predict 5 football results. They invest on average £5 a week. It’s a nice little startup operation, based in the UK. One would have thought the point of good governance to encourage such operations. He’s currently losing money, and needs the support of Government and Regulators to get off the ground, quite understandable that. He’s providing a service the large concerns do not.
He shoulders Gambling Commission fees around £2000 annually, auditor costs around the same mark, £4500 of fees to lawyers to set up his license. Pass the cheque book.
He’s been presented with a bill from Gamstop, for £2315 annually. Each customer he currently has is therefore costing him £3.30. That’s just for this highly questionable scheme. I say questionable because my experience of exclusion schemes is they simply do not work. Addicts, be they alcoholics, smokers or gamblers will go about their lives, irrespective of what scheme is dreamed up to artificially ‘protect’ them from themselves by regulators. Operators should assist, yes, but the burden of responsibility for an individual’s actions must rest with the individual.
As an aside- I fundamentally disagree that a group of regulators, howsoever well paid (!) should be dictating to any individual how they manage their lives. The truth about responsible gambling is it’s only an issue when you lose, and only just after for the vast majority. A natural knee jerk reaction to losing. An anger if you will. We simply do not all need ‘help’ – the only people who disagree are the regulators, because THEIR livelihoods depend on coming up with schemes someone claims to be ‘essential’
To put the fee scale into proper perspective, super-giant Bet365 pay Gamstop £321540 annually. If you have 30 million customers, you are paying 1 penny per customer by comparison. Despite quite evidently being the operator which would cause Gamstop to do the most work! Let’s balance what they pay, whilst trousering 600 million a year, against this start up operator, struggling to gain a foothold.
Who dreams up these fee scales, so designed to punish small operators, and favour global offshore entities? Regulators. They sit around board tables, with representatives of big betting companies, and dream up acceptable fee scales. Acceptable to those same companies, of course. If the Gambling Commission want us to take up their grand exclusion plans, as opposed to the ones that work, in the main, perfectly well to date, let them intervene to ensure an equable platform, based on number of users.
In asking the Gambling Commission, who intend ordering operators to accept the new exclusion project, to explain this grotesque distortion in fees, I’m met with the same embarrassed silence one experiences when asking them to explain why the control of marketing of gambling isn’t their number one priority. A cart before the horse syndrome, treat the problem rather than the symptoms. Commission execs shift from one buttock, to the other. Fiddle with their pens and look for the nearest exit. I’d accept just one of them telling me the Government has ordered them to keep their hands off the subject.
Lately Skybet have suggested they create and implement a scheme where their own customers can ‘block’ access to Skybet’s products on their devices. This is all terribly romantic stuff, personally I see little commercial reason to block my own customers! It’s absurdly easy, by the way, to circumvent such blocks. Of course their clever Chairman is putting up a smokescreen to deflect the GC from tackling their blanket adverts on every platform. The Commission – anxious for the cheap win offered by Skybet, are actively canvassing operators on whether we should all follow suit, and introduce such blocking capabilities.
Of course, there’s a cost. Skybet won’t mind investing 8-10m with their in house developers in such schemes. Independents, without such infrastructure, will likely need the assistance of outside agencies, a la Gamstop. And as outlined above, we can expect fee scales to be punishing on the smallest operators with far lower customer bases. We simply do not have more bums on seats.
So, whilst Skybet try to impress us how they’ve become born again citizens, let’s consider the smaller operators. They provide choice, and far better service levels. This Gambling Commission has an appalling record on fee structures since its inception. A casual disdain of the needs to nurture all size of business, one of their notable failures. They will be reading this in their good time. I wonder if it occurs to them that the net effect of shielding big business requirements to market so aggressively, fiddling whilst Rome burns by tacking problems after they’re created, and asking small business to disproportionately foot the bill, results in the further erosion of small business from the chess board at the rate of 17% a year. That what you want on your resume Mr McArthur?
CEO GB Sports Advisors Ltd