As part of its efforts to make gambling safer, the Gambling Commission has announced the formation of three industry working groups. Each group will focus on a different aspect of the industry that has been identified as ‘challenging’ – (i) product and game design, (ii) advertising technology and (iii) high value customer incentives. Each group will be led by different gambling operators and will work closely with the Betting and Gaming Council with a view towards raising industry standards and reducing harm. This approach hasn’t been seen in the gambling industry before, but Gambling Commission chief executive Neil McArthur said in a statement that “consumer behaviour and technology are changing so quickly that only a bold and innovative approach will allow us to achieve a reduction in the numbers of people experiencing, or at risk from, gambling related harm”.
The working groups
The first focuses on safer and more responsible product and game design. The aim is to produce materials setting out “the techniques to use when designing apps, online games and gaming machine products, the risks associated with each product and how they can be mitigated, and a clear explanation of what is not acceptable”. The advertising technology group will work on reducing the amount of gambling advertising seen by children, young people and vulnerable adults with a particular focus on online advertising (including social media advertising). Lastly, the high value customer group will help ensure that VIP schemes, bonuses and hospitality/gift incentives are offered in a fair, safer and crime-free manner.
In his keynote speech at the the CMS Gambling Conference 2020, Neil McArthur said that “there is an increasing focus on consumers and the way they gamble – especially online. We know that millions of people gamble and that many get great pleasure from it, but consumer confidence has been in decline for years.”
This first-of-its-kind approach is a step towards tackling these challenges. In recent months the Gambling Commission has announced collaborations with other regulators and advisory bodies to address these issues. Regarding these working groups, the Commission took independent advice on tackling online harms from both the Board for Safer Gambling and their Digital Advisory Panel. In October 2019, the Commission announced it would work with the Information Commissioner’s Office to find a technology solution that could see operators sharing data to help protect problem gamblers that gamble with multiple operators. More details of this initiative will be announced in the coming weeks and it is expected that we will see output from the working groups sooner rather than later, as the Commission has stressed that “if rapid progress is not made then we will have to look at other options as making gambling safer for consumers is paramount.”
The Commission has received criticism for setting up working groups led by companies that it regulates but, in our view, this kind of collaboration is an entirely sensible way forward.
Article co-authored by Rahul Gandhi.