Gambling Commission establishes Industry Forum
On 14 September 2023, the Gambling Commission announced the establishment of an Industry Forum, to be made up of representatives from the British gambling industry, with the role “to provide further insight into the views of operators…[and] share industry views on areas such as account management, consultations and the Commission’s data programme.”
There will be approximately 10 cross-industry members.
The recruitment of a Chair will begin in September 2023, when the Gambling Commission will be inviting expressions of interest from industry to become a member. Details will be published on the Gambling Commission website.
We welcome this announcement. We also very much welcome that the Gambling Commission has listened with increased industry engagement, recognising that better relationships with industry leads to better outcomes. However, we make two important observations:
- Why is the Industry Forum only being created now? It is: (a) nearly three years since the Gambling Act Review kicked off and the Lived Experience Advisory Panel was formed; (b) nearly six months since the publication of the White Paper; and (c) critically, the most important Gambling Commission consultations have already been published.
- Cynically, it is titled a “forum”, which suggests the possibility (however remote) it may not be viewed with much value within the Gambling Commission itself. Why is the Industry Forum not placed on an equal footing to the Lived Experience Advisory Panel, Digital Advisory Panel and Advisory Board for Safer Gambling? The Lived Experience Advisory Panel is described by the Gambling Commission as “provid[ing] expert independent advice based on its members personal lived experience of gambling harms”. Putting aside the issue with this description and lack of members with positive experience (which I have written about previously and was raised by the DCMS Committee on 5 September 2023) why is the new forum not an “Industry Panel” providing “advice” to the Gambling Commission? Plainly, advice is just that and it can be ignored.
Further, as industry lawyers, we have not had any structured engagement with the Gambling Commission for two years since the last Industry Lawyers’ Group meeting in September 2021 (which used to meet once or twice a year) and even that had fairly limited value when the questions raised were not answered for six months.
Whilst we acknowledge, as Andrew Rhodes explained before the DCMS Committee on 5 September 2023, that the Gambling Commission has held more stakeholder engagements in the last year (220 to be precise), it appears to have been selective. In particular, it has excluded certain parts of the British gambling industry, including longstanding, experienced and balanced stakeholders and advisers, including us!
Industry lawyers are an important buffer between the Gambling Commission and applicants/licensees. This is perhaps most obvious in our immersion in compliance and enforcement. The Gambling Commission (in its current form) seems to confuse lawyers being unhelpful with lawyers acting on their clients’ instructions. Nowadays, the latter tends to require us to hold the Gambling Commission to account to comply with its own policies and procedures and the law. We very much hope the establishment of the Industry Forum will prompt the Gambling Commission to take a more strategic and holistic approach, and perhaps create, like other regulators, a framework for stakeholder engagement.
Whilst we are encouraged by the establishment of an Industry Forum, we are disappointed by its delay and remain keen to hear what other plans the Gambling Commission and its leaders have to engage with the industry and its stakeholders.