A full house at ICE London’s ICC Suite listened intently as Sarah Fox, Deputy Director of Gambling and Lotteries for the Department for Media, Culture and Sport, kicked off the World Regulatory Body’s ICE VOX London 2023 series with an update on the progress of the long-awaited and long-delayed Gambling Act White Paper.
Although not giving a huge amount of detail, the audience were assured that the publication was close and that the decades-old Gambling Act of 2005 was fast-approaching updated guidance.
Two focuses of the White Paper and the hot topic of debate on Monday morning were possible legislation providing greater controls to prevent problem gambling and the role of advertising and sponsorship in both sport and across other mediums.
Tim Miller, Executive Director of the UK Gambling Commission welcomed the upcoming publication whilst also highlighting the fact that the industry was evolving at an increasingly fast pace.
“Gambling today is in many ways, a tech global industry. The way that gambling companies now operate and invest looks and feels increasingly like international big tech. And that clearly has implications not just on how they operate but how they impact consumers and how we as regulators need to do our jobs in response to that.”
Isabelle Falque Pierrotin, Chairwoman of the French Gambling Authority – ANJ, discussed this aspect in terms of advertising. “It’s getting more and more digitized, industrialized and very efficient. It goes straight to the individuals and it uses all of the possibilities of the internet, including influencers and interactive advertising.”
And in an age of Twitch and YouTube streaming, the danger is that these influencers have a power over an unregulated audience, particularly a younger generation who may inadvertently be encouraged into underage gambling. Additionally, these adverts may be seen by users who already have a known problem with gambling.
Pierrotin continued, ‘The danger is that we are selling a product that is potentially toxic. Advertising must be framed to respect the type of products that gambling is offering to the public.”
Fedor Meerts, Head of Department at the Holland Ministry of Justice & Security spoke about how this kind of advertising was being restricted in The Netherlands.
“When we opened the markets, we found we had a lot of untargeted advertising on television and outdoors. But the industry responded by completely stopping outdoor marketing, allowing television marketing only after 10pm and only giving one advert per allowed commercial period.”
He continued by highlighting further legislation being phased in which would mean that certain channels across television and radio would not be allowed to advertise gambling where it was not possible to sufficiently exclude persons who were under the age of 24.
Whilst it seems that collaboration between operators and regulators is proving successful in areas like targeted advertising, there remains a number of questions around gambling sponsorships, particularly in the UK, and with the publication of the White Paper imminent, Tim Miller, was quick to point out that evidence is key to implementing any kind of restriction.
“We need to build public trust and confidence and make decisions based on evidence. That’s why we’ve been working with the Information Commissioner and financial services industry. There is an increasing focus on our findings in the White Paper being evidence driven.”
Scott Benton, a Member of Parliament for the Conservatory Party, spoke passionately in defense of sports advertising whilst reiterating the need for evidential based decisions.
“Everything we do as a government has to be evidenced based. Many sports could not survive without sponsorship. Restrictions around advertising need to be phased in. We need to look at the Premiership first. Look at the impact there and then introduce a phased approach to restricting sponsorship.”
The challenge facing the global industry has always been one of country or state specific regulation being inconsistent – differing governments and cultures demand different regulations. But as one of the largest regulators in the world, particularly online, all eyes will be on the UK as it brings in new guidance. With that in mind, Miller concluded by championing international collaboration.
“Britain is and should continue to be a world leader. We’ll continue to share best practice and look for areas where we can work together. We want collaboration and not confusion. We need to keep looking for ways to drive standards up and to give consumers a high quality and safe gaming experience.”
If the gambling industry is indeed progressing as quickly as world tech then the UK cannot afford further delays on updating its guidance and legislation. Miller also mentioned NFTs and a widening plethora of products flooding the market without proper regulation. Will the White Paper have guidance around these products?
We all wait with baited breath.