After a marked absence from ICE, Neil McArthur, the CEO of the Gambling Commission, gave a keynote speech at the ICE World Regulatory Briefing, on 3 February 2020, titled “Changing Mindsets”, talking about:
- why we need to make gambling safer;
- what he sees as the opportunities to make gambling safer and the risks if those opportunities are not taken; and
- how he thinks a change of mindset can help – regulators, operators, advisers and suppliers – make gambling safer.
McArthur proclaimed that the gambling industry needed to “be bold”, setting out his case for change and why he considered it to be necessary. With public trust and participation rates declining, he referred to the “wholly unacceptable state of affairs” with 340,000 problem gamblers and 1.6 million at risk (data published by Public Health in 2016), and declared that these numbers needed to “radically reduce”, necessitating a “comprehensive public health response”.
Unlike previous ICE speeches, this speech appeared to be written for the consumption of the Gambling Commission’s critics, rather than its subjects.
One of the focuses of the speech was the Gambling Commission’s view of collaboration and the need to look at “complex problems” from “as many different angles as possible”, including those with direct or indirect “lived experience” of gambling related harm. In response to recent criticism from Carolyn Harris MP, following an earlier speech on collaboration, McArthur addressed the appropriateness of a regulator collaborating with its licensees, clarifying two things: (1) it was not self-regulation; and (2) licensees cannot set or mark their own homework. The fruits of the working groups will be “stress tested” before the next Raising Standards Conference and only the Gambling Commission will decide what regulatory changes should follow in the LCCP or Remote Technical Standards, with advice from the Advisory Board for Safer Gambling, Digital Advisory Panel and insights from people with lived experience of gambling harm.
The other focus of the speech was the effect mindset can have on performance, citing the performance coach Matthew Syed. McArthur highlighted too much emphasis being placed on public relations, not addressing the public health issue, and the need for a change in culture by “disrupt[ing] old mindsets…to create positive change for consumers and approach the challenges we face in a different way.” He called upon those at the top to change the tone to achieve tangible outcomes and expressed his preparedness “to work with anyone who shares [his] determination to make rapid, positive changes to protect consumers from harm.”
Although abundantly clear already, McArthur spelt out that only the Gambling Commission will judge whether efforts adequately address harm to consumers and, if not, all options will remain on the table, with the Gambling Commission getting “tougher and tougher”. He stated that “the time to think of this as a competition between ‘poachers’ and ‘gamekeepers’ has gone…We each have a different part to play, but that must be our goal. If that isn’t anyone’s goal they need to leave the industry.”