White Paper Series: DCMS speaks at IAGA 40th Annual Gaming Summit in Belfast
On 21 June 2023, Ben Dean, Director of Sport and Gambling from the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (“DCMS”) participated in the International Association of Gaming Advisors (“IAGA”) 40th annual International Gaming Summit in Belfast.
Dean delivered a keynote and joined the subsequent panel discussion on the Government’s plan for reform of gambling regulation following the review of the Gambling Act 2005, and its potential impact on the future of the regulated UK gambling industry. This was the first time that DCMS had spoken publicly since the publication on 27 April 2023 of its White Paper: High stakes: gambling reform for the digital age (the “White Paper”).
Keynote – White Paper on Gambling Reform in Britain – Overview and Next Steps
Dean recognised the importance of the gambling industry in Great Britain and that gambling is enjoyed by a large percentage of the population each month, with the majority of gamblers suffering no ill effects. He made clear however that gambling comes with risks and that problem gambling can have a devastating impact, noting it was important that Government put their best efforts into making gambling safer. Dean acknowledged the delay in publishing the White Paper, attributed to the numerous changes in Prime Ministers, and underlined that the many Secretaries of State he had supported during the Gambling Act Review had consistently pointed out that it is not the job of a Conservative Government to tell people how to spend their money.
A key challenge faced during the Gambling Review was finding the balance between freedom and protection. Dean said DCMS believes that the balance is probably right because campaigners complain Government did not go far enough and industry believe it went too far.
Dean highlighted DCMS’ strong desire to keep working with the industry, continuing to hear views on both sides, and recognised the importance of getting the detail right as the 62 measures come into force to protect those most vulnerable without interfering with the freedoms of the majority. He noted that the under-25 cohort was of particular importance and focus for DCMS, and said that the White Paper includes specific protections taking into consideration the continuing brain development of that group.
One encouraging remark by Dean, regarding the proposed frictionless financial risk checks, was that:
“We know how important the frictionless commitment is and have said the measures won’t come into force until they genuinely are frictionless.”
Though they will not of course be frictionless for those customers in respect of whom flags are raised.
Dean said DCMS will launch two of its consultations, including one relating to land-based modernisation measures, before the summer recess (July) and a further consultation immediately following that recess over the Summer. Government aims to implement the majority of key measures by Summer 2024, but Dean acknowledged this will require Government to “keep their feet to the fire” and those requiring primary legislation will likely take longer.
In conclusion, Dean praised submissions in the call for evidence for the White Paper and encouraged stakeholders to engage in the consultations and speak with DCMS directly so as to ensure the successful implementation of the commitments in the White Paper.
Panel – The Long-Awaited White Paper on Gambling Reform in Britain
Moderated by Dan Waugh from Regulus Partners, the following panel of experts then discussed next steps in Great Britain following publication of the White Paper:
- Andrew Herd, Managing Director, Lancashire Court Capital Ltd
- Antony Gevisser, Senior Vice President – Legal & Operational Affairs, Super Group
- Ben Dean, Director of Sport and Gambling, DCMS
- Helen Rhodes, Director of Major Projects, Gambling Commission
- Wes Himes, Executive Director, Betting & Gaming Council
The panel discussion was a lively and engaging debate. The panel agreed that credit should be given when it is due: the White Paper was balanced, proportionate and evidence-based and had generally been well-received by the industry and its stakeholders as a whole. However, the focus now is on implementing the many commitments therein in both a timely and an effective manner.
Rhodes noted that 24 of the 62 measures in the White Paper were in the Gambling Commission’s court, with many not involving consultations and some measures requiring increased resources at the Gambling Commission. Rhodes was “very confident” with the Gambling Commission’s structured consultation programme, which will include pre-consultation briefings and a phased implementation to ease the effect on the industry, and emphasised the Gambling Commission would keep communication lines with the industry open and that it was “absolutely keen to collaborate”. She also confirmed that financial risk checks would be in the first batch of consultations this summer.
It was also interesting to find out that the long overdue response to the Gambling Commission’s consultation on customer interaction guidance (about which we have previously written) would be published before the further White Paper consultations were launched in Summer 2023.
Dean confirmed that the Secretary of State wanted to get the consultations within its remit out as soon as possible and that it would not wait to release the consultations in one batch, preferring instead to keep the ball rolling.
It was noted by the panel that frictionless financial risk checks involved competing interests which need to align prior to the introduction of that requirement – and that it would be important to test the accuracy of the final methods that would be used to determine financial risk. Herd described this as an “existential issue”, and Gevisser emphasised the “need for th[e] industry to survive and thrive”.
Himes stated that one of the biggest challenges is that the technology relating to frictionless checks is still evolving, with the accuracy of such checks needing to be tested. Himes notes that if it can be done right, there will be a positive future.
Rhodes acknowledged that checks could not be frictionless for every customer but considered that, if implemented properly, the introduction of financial risk checks would represent a positive change for the industry as a whole and would affect only c.5% of customers. Rhodes also said that the Gambling Commission is 100% committed to working with the finance sector and the Information Commissioner’s Office to deliver the frictionless checks. It will be for the operator to use the results of those checks to support identified customers and reduce their risk profiles. Dean also recognised that creating and implementing a system for frictionless checks would not be easy, particularly given the importance of proportionality and the risk of driving people to the black market.
All panellists agreed that it would be paramount that the industry continues to engage, and encouraged those present to participate in the various consultations being run by DCMS and the Gambling Commission and also to contribute to any supplementary work undertaken by industry bodies, such as the Betting and Gaming Council’s work on industry codes.
We extend our thanks to DCMS, the Gambling Commission and other panellists for their valuable contributions.