Operators’ Representatives Drilled At Westminster

Viktor Vangelov | Published 5 Sep 2019, 2:02 p.m.

If you’ve read our news in the past few months, it may seem like we’re going on and on about problem gambling and responsible gambling. But, it’s the key focus for most stakeholders within the UK. The Gambling Commission has been particularly active, several operators have been fined, others have been warned and there have been quite a few initiatives launched by operators and other relevant organisations.

The leading UK operators have agreed to launch a new committee at the beginning of last month. Problem gambling has been in the spotlight for a while, it was even covered by BBC Panorama in one of their episodes last month.

This time we’re reporting on how the executives of some of the largest gambling companies in the UK visited the House of Commons where they were required to answer a few serious questions. And the people who posed the questions weren’t too friendly or too keen on supporting gambling per se.

CEOs and other representatives were present

The even was organised by the All Party Parliamentary Group that deals with gambling, or to be more precise with harm caused by gambling. The parliamentary group is led by Carolyn Harris, a Labour MP who is one of the most vocal critics of the negative effects of gambling and one of the key proponents for legal restrictions on gambling.

John Coates, a representative of Bet365 participated in the event, together with the CEO of Tombola Phil Cronin and Ian Proctor, who is a CEO of Sky. It was interesting to note that an empty chair paired with a name plate for Kenny Alexander, GVC chief executive was also placed, even though he had previously informed Parliament that he will not be attending.

The CEOs of William Hill and Flutter Entertainment (previously known as Paddy Power Betfair) also chose not to attend but sent other representatives. Bowcock, who was the CEO of William Hill, announced that he’s stepping down on the day of the meeting.

MPs really pushed hard to get answers

As one could expect, the meeting wasn’t very pleasant for the representatives of the operators. Harris and the other MPs who participated in the panel, including Iain Duncan Smith, were pushing operators to give clear “yes or no” answers to important questions regarding gambling and regulations.

Representatives said that they would support a mandatory levy for all in the amount of 1%, after having previously agreed to a voluntary levy of the same percentage. However, the deadline for implementing this voluntary contribution scheme is 2023, and Ronnie Cowan of the SNP asked why it is necessary to wait that long.

To that, Coates responded that they might be willing to increase the donations earlier if that is necessary. Operators will also support the establishment of the role of gambling ombudsman, a proposal that was put forward by Labour Deputy Tom Watson earlier this year.

Harris brought up the issue of problem gambling and asked the representatives of the operators if they would close an account of a person who admits to be a problem gambler and when they said that they would, she pointed out that she is in possession of evidence that punters who have required to close their accounts, are still receiving marketing communications.