Gambling on the future of an increasingly secretive industry
This is the first of many blogs for the newly formed Gamvisory Group around the gambling industry in the UK. Currently there are numerous challenges facing the UK gambling industry, as a wave of likely unprecedented change awaits through the course of 2020 and beyond. For almost two decades, it is my view that gambling operators have arguably been able to dodge laws, rules and regulations around the protection of customers. Change is however coming with a review of the Gambling Act for a digital age and a new gambling ombudsman likely to be considered. Never before has gambling been so much in the public eye as reform and changes to legislation rightly loom.
Engaging with customers impacted by harm, ‘The voice of the consumer’, be it with disputed bets or more importantly when affected by harm has arguably been ignored for some time. As a gambler for over 15 years until late 2018, there are some significant experiences that will be referenced in my forthcoming blogs upon around where there are areas for improvement regarding ‘responsible’ gambling. For too long those harmed by gambling have not been invited to share their knowledge and wisdom. Over the coming weeks and months, this series of blogs will have a major focus on trying to drive more transparency and openness from gambling firms, regulators and other stakeholders. From personal experiences in the areas of social responsibility complaints, dispute resolution, data use and VIP schemes it seems we have an industry who are very selective in how they interpret guidelines in the aforementioned areas.
Over the last year, it has been on Twitter where my voice and engagement has grown. Currently the Gambling Insight GB profil has almost 1,000 followers. I engage with MPs, journalists, betting firm employees and those affected by gambling harm on a daily basis. At the heart of the account is however, that I too am another lone and fragmented voice. This platform through Gamvisory is vital in driving real change. Being aligned with a unified voice as part of Gamvisory is key in sharing gambling insights with as wide a possible audience. Anything that is posted in the future will be factual and evidence based. I am in no way anti-gambling. I fully believe people should be able to bet and choose how much. What I have issues with is when operators choose to exploit people at their most vulnerable.
A broken complaints process is what drives me to begin my blog. Simply being shut down by operators, regulators, dispute resolution agencies and other when it comes to transparency and fairness. Online gambling brings with it a joint responsibility, yet it seems operators can be selective as to their own individual accountability. For almost 18 months, be it in complaining to IBAS, the Gambling Commission, ADRs, data providers, the ICO and the gambling operator, it seems the individual is continually met with “dead ends” and no where to go. At the heart of this is the fact that the Gambling Commission cannot investigate individual complaints. IBAS are not licensed to. However, if a consumer has a duty of care or responsible gambling complaint, the firm will direct them to IBAS – who are no actually licensed to resolve such disputes.
I will provide further insights into my specific dispute in my next blog, ‘Joint responsibility and a lack of transparency’. The media rhetoric of gambling firms seeking to become “best in class” by introducing safer gambling commitments is questionable when there are already laws and regulations in place that operators should adhere to. Blaming banks, other tech firms and the risk of black-market operators is valid but greater attention should be made by operators into adhering to current regulations. Whilst there will be differences of opinions, not engaging with the real experts with experience in this change would be an unwise move. It is important to work together and be respectful of each other’s views. Silence and non-replies to direct questions continue to frustrate from the industry does not help. Greater transparency is urgently required and the reasons for this shall be highlighted in my next blog which will focus on how a major gambling firm, part of the big 5 needs to do more.
With a very deep personal sense of feeling failed by the gambling industry, now is the time to engage or the industry is at risk of failing itself.