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Preview: Frustrations with the Gambling Commission

By Matthew Enderby

Regulators are often tagged with a bad reputation. They can be blamed for setting standards too high and for not enforcing those same standards. It’s a tough task, especially when they are expected to liaise with governments known for moving at a slow pace. But if operators, suppliers and affiliates are scrutinised, fined and held to the letter of the law, surely gambling regulators deserve a close look.

Regulating the industry in England, Scotland and Wales, the Gambling Commission has faced scrutiny for past decisions and ongoing processes. The first point of contention addresses the decision to give an online newspaper an exclusive look into its research on children gambling.

Gambling Consultant Steve Donoughue said: “It commissioned some very good research that it then allowed, one can only think of as by design, to be completely misinterpreted in the press. Giving the exclusive to that renowned newspaper of 'fair' reporting, the Daily Mail, the report’s headlines, as written in the report’s executive summary, screamed that millions of children were gambling and that tens of thousands were problem gambling.

“The real truth is that the majority of underage gambling is done between themselves and is entirely legal. The tiny percentage who gamble illegally are mostly doing so with their parents’ permission.”

It is essential for the Commission to properly anticipate how publications will headline and write their stories, especially with such a provocative subject up for discussion.

Now, the Gambling Commission is asking for the public’s help with credit card gambling, another serious issue facing the industry.

Donoughue explained how he understands the Commission’s request for help: “Consultations on bans on credit cards and the national strategy to reduce gambling harms are being opened to the public requesting their views. Why? Because the Commission knows that the only people who will respond will be anti-gambling groups and this will give them the wherewithal to bring in more, unnecessary and unevidenced restrictions to gambling.

“Unfortunately, the millions of happy punters out there aren’t organised and don’t realise their freedoms are being threatened and this plays into the hands of the Commission and other anti-gambling groups, such as GambleAware, who are relishing the prospect of a mandatory levy and hundreds of millions of pounds to spend on researching problem gambling in South American field mice.”

The Gambling Commission needs to take control of this situation and do more than ask for help; it needs to demand data from operators. It can never keep everyone happy and needs to commence an era of authority.

Gambling Insider reached out to the Commission for comment.

Donoughue spoke to Gambling Insider for a feature comparing regulators from across industry, published in the magazine’s May/June edition. Sign up here for free to read it.

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