The UK is an e-gaming success story. It is a competitive market, meaning excellent value for customers and has created jobs and tax revenues for the economy. But, looking to the future, it is not certain that is will continue.
Observing the gambling sector, one sees a Gambling Commission, encouraged by the Digital Department of Culture Media and Sport (DDCMS), constantly criticising a tax-generating, job providing, innovating industry. The attacks are furthered by a media that has only a poor view of gambling.
Do not underestimate the influence the media can have. Cast your mind back to 2006 when the then Labour Government introduced legislation to allow super casinos in the UK for the first time. Paper likes the Daily Mail were having none of it and managed to influence the process sufficiently to stop the super casino legislation in its tracks.
A decade later and the Daily Mail is focused on Fixed Odds betting Terminals (FOBTS) and the Sunday Times on underage gambling. The BBC regularly features problem gamblers and problem gambling experts across different programmes on its network.
There is so much negative news about gambling that another government is unlikely to look towards Britain as an example and copy it. Why would a politician looking at the UK even contemplate the risk? Yet the level of problem gambling remains lows and is largely unchanged.
The UK, post-Brexit, needs all of its business sectors to up their game, and that includes gambling. How are we going to sell gambling advice, services and know-how to a Europe that is persuaded not to buy because of the negative UK example?
The UK Gambling Commission has said that in future it would take account of consumer surveys before framing regulation. In the last survey 34% of people said they thought gambling can be fair and trusted. That means 66% think that gambling is NOT fair or cannot be trusted. If that were so, then why is gambling so popular? The survey revealed that many of those interviewed were not gamblers. Their reference for gambling is what they see and read in the media.
The UK Gambling Commission became operable in 2007. A year later, the first survey was completed and the number who thought gambling was fair and to be trusted was 49%. So why has it fallen under the Gambling Commissions watch to 34%? Are consumers receiving poor value? No, the pay-out has never been higher. Poor customer service? I have not found it so.
Part of the answer must surely be the attitude the Gambling Commission has with the industry. It is totally negative.
39% think that gambling is associated with criminal activity. This really is an indictment on the Gambling Commission itself. There is no crime in UK gambling, indeed the American Gaming Association holds the UK as an example of a crime free environment. Yet again, it is a question of perception and what one reads and sees in the media.
GBGC highlighted in September about how communication will be key to UK gambling’s future.
If UK gambling is to prosper it needs to get smart.
by Warwick Bartlett