6 May, 2022

Exploring the process

The Rank Group’s Director of Public Affairs, David Williams, speaks to Gambling Insider on the upcoming Gambling Act review and the current state of land-based casinos in the UK

The Gambling Act review has been long in the making, what do you think the results of it will be? 

I think it would be a bit ill-advised to anticipate the results, it is more prudent to have a look at the process. The fact that the Government has committed to this being an evidence-based review gives reason to be hopeful. Our belief is that there is ample evidence in terms of land-based for the modest proposals that we have made for modernisation to be implemented. These proposals are all underscored by player protection, which I think has to be at the heart of the issue. We believe we have put our arguments forward coherently, and providing the evidence is looked at, with all the parliamentary engagement that has taken place, you would hope it will end well. 

A key thing is that the modest proposals we have put forward, particularly in terms of land-based, are in effect an extension of the experiment that was created in the 2005 Act. It was very much presented as an experiment, the analysis and conclusion of that has not taken place until now. We, the industry, have put a pretty compelling argument together for modest modernisation that can protect jobs, bring in tax money and create a better proposition for our customers; thus ensuring the long-term survival of land-based casinos. 

A big part of the discussion right now surrounds problem gambling and addiction; what is the best way for the industry to address this? 

I think the industry has actually come a very long way in recent years. When I think back to the passage of the 2005 Act, there is no doubt now that there is much more of a focus from the very top to ensure safer gambling is at the heart of everything we do. Quite rightly, it is front and centre in our proposals. We have been very mindful to make sure that appropriate levels of player protection are baked into everything we have done. We have spent a lot of time trying to articulate this to parliamentarians and the media, who have been more than happy to have those discussions with us. 

What is the current state of land-based casinos in the UK?

Land-based casinos, and bingo for that matter, were significantly hit by the pandemic and the lockdown; it was a gruelling time across the industry, with closures and job losses. It will take time to come back to the levels that we saw pre-pandemic; but I think the industry has a very good proposition which has stood the test of time very well. It is not without challenges, though; we need to get more people back into the capital, and overcome the cost-of-living crisis. But what we do and what we offer has the potential to bring success. There are a lot of moving parts here, it isn’t just about bouncing back; it is about investing in the fabric of our venues, getting the very best products to customers. When you piece all of this together, and overlay it with what we would like to see coming out of the white paper, then you have a potential recipe for something that looks pretty good.

You have said that the industry has come a long way in terms of perception in the last three or four years; what changed? 

Having worked in the industry for 17 years it is very evident to me that the time, energy and resources put into player protection is light years ahead of where it was in 2005. Technology has to be our friend here. We have to use the skills of our teams, the data we have in order to make sure player protection is personalised and suitable. One size will never fit all, and this is a journey that will never be finished. But it is about raising standards and investing into getting this right. The key thing here is that obviously this is the right thing to do, and increasingly there is an upside to getting this right. Businesses are listening to their ESG agendas and operators who excel in this area will flourish.