ICE World Regulatory Briefing 2023: Speeches from Gambling Commission senior executives
This blog will discuss the speeches delivered by senior executives from the Gambling Commission at the ICE World Regulatory Briefing (“WrB”).
Tim Miller, an Executive Director at the Gambling Commission, delivered a speech at WrB on 6 February 2023. Mr Miller considered the challenges facing the international gambling industry, and the Commission’s intention to further collaborate with other regulators to address these issues. Subsequently, on 8 February 2023, Andrew Rhodes, the current Chief Executive Officer at the Gambling Commission, delivered a speech. In particular, Mr Rhodes considered the controversial issue of affordability checks, and reflected on the Gambling Commission’s ambitions to deliver “better research and better outcomes”.
Part One: Tim Miller’s speech at the ICE Briefing
1. Illegal online gambling
Mr Miller highlighted that illegal online gambling is a key issue facing the gambling industry. In particular, the Gambling Commission is concerned about online gambling sites which fail to participate in GamStop, a multi-operator self-exclusion scheme which players can voluntarily subscribe to. Since March 2020, the Gambling Commission has required all online operators to subscribe to GamStop as a method to combat problem gambling. There are also “insidious” websites and affiliates which promote gambling operators that are “not on GamStop” in order to “target people who have sought to self-exclude from gambling”.
Over the last year, the Gambling Commission has “directed more resource” towards combatting non-compliant websites. However, there is a continued prevalence of both illegal gambling operators not subscribed to GamStop, as well as websites which promote this illegal activity.
Mr Miller states “efforts will increasingly be further upstream to disrupt these illegal sites and to work with regulators around the world”. Additionally, he emphasised that gambling operators should refrain from exaggerating the issue of online illegal gambling to justify “lower, less fair or less safe standards” in the regulated gambling sector.
2. Innovative products
Mr Miller also addressed the issue of innovative products in his speech. Innovative products, such as “non-fungible tokens (or NFTs), ‘synthetic shares’ [and] crypto currency” are becoming “increasingly widespread”. Consequently, “the boundaries between products which can be defined and regulated as gambling are becoming increasingly blurred”. The Gambling Commission will be “vigilant” and “likely have questions” for any licensed operator which uses innovative products. However, Mr Miller highlighted that “many of these products are not gambling as defined by law”, and therefore such products would be outside the Gambling Commission’s regulatory scope.
3. Collaboration with other regulators
A central theme of Mr Miller’s speech is the Gambling Commission’s plans to collaborate with regulators in other jurisdictions to address issues facing the international gambling industry (including online illegal gambling and innovative products). He highlighed that international collaboration will help to achieve “better results for consumers and compliant operators”. He highlighted a common “appetite” amongst regulators for improved “sharing of intel” as well as “more feedback on operators”. As such, he noted that the Gambling Commission shall “continue” to share information and experiences with other regulators, as well as identify “areas where [they] can work together to call out concerning practice or products”.
Part Two: Andrew Rhodes’ speech at the ICE Briefing
4. Affordability checks
After reflecting on post Covid-19 statistics and competitiveness in the gambling sector, Mr Rhodes discussed the vexed topic of ‘affordability checks’ in the context of the ongoing review of the Gambling Act 2005. He noted the rationale for such checks – that historically the Gambling Commission “has found too many examples of unacceptable levels of gambling being allowed” by operators.
However, Mr Rhodes clarified that the Gambling Commission does not wish to make “a moral judgment” about customer spend, but rather to “eradicate” extreme/objectively unacceptable instances of excessive gambling. The Gambling Commission currently “expect[s] operators to consider a range of factors” when assessing the risk profile of a customer, taking into account various factors. Mr Rhodes expresses that it is feasible for operators to “balance protecting people from harmful or unfair outcomes with freedom of choice”, but that the Government plays a “big role” in helping operators to understand “where that balance should be sought”.
5. Improving gambling research and data
After reflecting on various research data gathered by the Gambling Commission (namely that problem gambling rates appear to be reducing), Mr Rhodes reflected on the Gambling Commission’s plans to facilitate further and higher quality gambling research/data. He highlighted that doing so will assist them to “understand what motivates and drives consumers”, thus shaping policies which improve “outcomes for consumers”. He proposed that later this year the Gambling Commission will launch “a new Participation and Prevalence methodology” that focuses on gambling harm statistics. Mr Rhodes also highlightd that the Gambling Commission has “invested in [their] consumer research for the next three years”, and noted the role that the Gambling Act Review will play in plans for improved research processes and data.