On 19 June 2020, the Gambling Commission announced the creation of an interim Experts by Experience Group. The interim group “will provide advice, evidence and recommendations to the Commission to help inform decision making and raise standards, along with co-creating a permanent Experts by Experience Advisory Group to advise the regulator on a more established basis.”
An unidentified spokesperson for the interim group said:
“[It] comprises a group of people who have suffered a wide range of gambling harms, including recovering gambling addicts, family and partners of addicts, and those who have lost children to gambling suicides…the establishment of the group is long overdue. We are determined…to play a continuing and much more active role in the deliberations and decision making across the whole remit of the Commission as part of the National Strategy to reduce gambling harms. We bring a new and vital perspective on key issues of regulation and even how the Commission itself works.”
The interim group will be in place for at least six months, at which point the Gambling Commission plans to move to a permanent Experts by Experience Advisory Group, similar to the Advisory Board for Safer Gambling and the Digital Advisory Panel.
No terms of reference are published for the interim Experts by Experience Group and its members are not known. Names may be sensitive or confidential; however, at a minimum, the number of members, members’ backgrounds, the reason for their appointment and a register of interests should be published. Otherwise, the interim group runs the risk of being labelled a quasi-lobby group, financed and supported by the Gambling Commission.
Although it is only an interim group, plainly, it has a strong level of influence over the Gambling Commission’s work. It should, therefore, be treated no differently from the Advisory Board for Safer Gambling and the Digital Advisory Panel.
The objective bystander might wonder why the interim group’s members only comprise those who have experienced gambling harms when there are 400,000 people classified as problem gamblers and 32 million gamblers in Great Britain.
Unfortunately, the Gambling Commission’s lack of transparency detracts from the real and genuine value of the Experts by Experience Group and devalues contributions made by its members. To build a sustainable gambling industry, we could all learn and develop significantly from the work of the interim group and the experiences of its members. This requires us to work in partnership and adopt a balanced approach.
It seems the Gambling Commission has failed, again, to be transparent, balanced and independent.