Steve Donoughue – Saving the gambling sector in Britain will take us five years

David Bowie launched the release of his seminal album’s opening track, ‘The Spiders from Mars and The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Hardest.’ It was known as ‘Five Years’ and it presented the record’s overarching theme; a future apocalyptic catastrophe that would demolish the world in five years. It might appear somehow hyperbolic; however, because of the existing pandemic predicament, raising the conflict between China and India, America and China, Brexit and global warming, Russia and the other parts of Europe, that this song that is nearly 50 years old can work as a warning story. However, I argue that the gambling sector in Britain in its entirety has five years to salvage itself before the restriction forces succeed and we become similar to Ukraine; having a flourishing gambling sector but 3/4 of it in the underworld. You might wonder how a dignified country like the UK, which at one time had a gambling sector and regulatory surrounding the other parts of the globe coveted and hoped to imitate, deviate so greatly from the simple restrictions basics that motivate operators to work in a taxed and certified marketplace.

The answer is inadequate leadership, increase of populism, radical ideology embracement, dogma and resistance to liberal values like trusting the scientific technique and the requirement for evidence and the liberty to take any action you desire without endangering others. I think that we have only five years left because the state has set the ball rolling on their Gambling Act 2005 review. Beginning the end of September, Nigel Huddleston MP, the Gambling Minister had a meeting with stakeholders to talk about how the changes will be set up. Press reports have indicated that No. 10. will top the review. Why mention five years? The reason is that this is the period it took for the previous change of the gambling regulations, the Budd Review, to be launched, finalized, published and made into regulation, as theGambling Act 2005, which earned 7 April, 2005 Royal Assent.  Reviews in the past took an even longer time to become law. Therefore, if the state resolves to have a complete review, in around 2025 we can anticipate a new Gambling Act.

Oddly enough, we do not have to fear much from a review compared to what we should fear from whatever the Gambling Commission might come up with in the prevailing period. If we were to consider the Budd Review and earlier Royal Commissions are an example, they mainly give a just hearing to gambling. A separate panel exists consisting of the good and great appointed, normally with minimal gambling knowledge but with character to maintain. They conduct thorough assessment on the evidence they have and study all concepts. Bud Review’s chapter three of ‘The Central Dilemma’ indicates to us, it manly triggers conflicting ideas among the review panel. However, they normally emerge with very practical compromise.

in numerous instances, the review panelists reveal the deception, false information, warped reasoning and fake information many times implemented by anti-gambling teams. This is an element that has not existed before at all from the published reports this summer, for instance, the ones from the House of Lords Select Committee and Gambling Related Harm All Party Parliamentary Group on the Gambling Industrial Social and Economic Impact.  The reason for this might be the preponderance of MPs who are secretly opposed to gambling, who wrote the reports.  We should always remember that there is a big Parliament anti-gambling lobby.

My point is that we are aware that politicians have become increasingly populist and more susceptible to voting for an idea instead of what is indicated on the evidence. We assume that the anti-gambling groups motivated by vengeance or grief, militant academics looking for extra grant cash and activist problem gamblers who want to shift the blame for their activities will all lead to a significant amount of feelings but minimal evidence to the talks. An independent panel is issuing a review based on logic, facts and evidence, which gives this industry some semblance of hope of rising in 2025 somehow in one piece.

However, when thinking of the sector’s reputation that has been greatly tarnished by the controversy about the fixed-odds betting terminals, mainly because of the brick and mortar sector’s myopic view, there is only a glimmer of hope that the populist politician’s conspiracist worries will be quashed. But, our major issue is the regulator who appears bent on destroying what it was created to safeguard. Historically, it is true that the regulator has experienced challenges in its interactions with the sector. The Commission has embraced a Stalinesque tactic, insisting that each point that was discussed be classified as regulatory important and shift from presenting straightforward and concise restrictions.

The foundations of the Commission’s technique to handle challenges involved in gambling are the client relationship policy and cost-efficiency. Neither of them has any straightforward details, guidance or explanations of how to establish them. Operators are required to only create systems personally at significant expense, and hope they realize the objective of the Commission. Without a doubt, the Commission is not really sure of its objectives in view of al the restrictions introduced; no tests have taken place to determine whether they are effective or not.

The National Audit Office and Public Accounts Committee that is significantly prohibitionist also contributed to to their very analytical reviews on the Commission written in February and June 2020. Recently, it progressed to another drastic level when the controversial Covid-19 restrictions were implemented in May without any discussion as s24(10) of the Gambling Act 2005 requires. A list of bullet points have constrained the sector and raised the restriction stress by twofold.  This was foreseen by the un-evidenced idea that the lockdown due to Covid-19 would lead to a great rise in problematic gambling.

The minimal study that the Commission undertook indicated minimal rise in gambling by a tiny client percentage. Consequent study had not given any indication of any future flooding of problem gamblers. The fact that the Commission has not overturned the emergency restrictions, a negative person may think that the Commission was taking advantage of the pandemic opportunity to make the restriction burden worse. Also, it is crucial to know that if the Covert Human Intelligence Sources (Criminal Conduct) Bill, presently advancing through Parliament goes through, it means the Commission has the liberty of bending the law as many times as it wants. But, if the Commission truly presents itself as a major hazard to a licensed and taxed gambling sector’s future as its presentation of Experts by Experience and the projected new regulations to be implemented on VIP schemes.

The  name is the solution to the Experts by Experience folly. The idea that a person is a professional in anything, by just experiencing it, is absolutely ludicrous to any person raised in the scientific technique’s enlightenment tradition. The reason might be due to the idea that lived experience arises from postmodernism, which refutes the concept of scientific fact, favoring instead, the nebulous ideals of the key importance of beliefs, feelings and language. Undoubtedly, there is an advantage in allowing gamblers to give an opinion. However, it would logically mean that a representative panel of 99 regular gamers who are normal and happy and a single problem gambler, rather than the various activist problem gamblers the Commission has permitted to have a significant part in the decision making procedure policy.

The latest update i got was that the nuclear regulator lacked Greenpeace creating nuclear policy and we lack alcoholics deciding licensing regulations. However, it will worsen since the Advisory Board for Safer Gambling, to all intents and purposes body of renowned academics that give the Commission suggestions on problem gambling are the ones who do not just promote this farfetched idea, but suggest that problem gamblers be included in all the levels of gambling policy. Anti-gambling, if it was previously unclear, will feature prominently at our industry regulator’s heart. The proposed new regulations from the Commission about VIP schemes anticipate that an operator will determine the following from a VIP scheme’s new member:

–  Whether they are going through poor mental or physical health.

–  Cognitive or physical impairment.

–  Experiencing injury, addiction, medication side effects.

–  Whether they are going through economic hardships.

–  Experiencing financial or domestic abuse.

–  Have caring responsibilities.

–  Are going through a life transformation or unexpected change in circumstances.

–  Whether their trust level is above standard.

–  High risk appetite.

It means that the gambling sector should appoint a troop of qualified psychologists and persuade their prospective VIPs to have a lengthy session with them on the couch before they bet a single pound. It is even before the economic declarations that would be required on a higher scale than that required for avoiding money laundering. So, why did the Commission present regulations like these, that are apparently so difficult to establish? I think that following the implementation of an international health handling of problem gambling, the Commission aims to decrease the number of gamblers. In technical terms, a national health method to anything concerns reducing its regularity. The other international health methods are on alcohol, drugs, knife and smoking wrong-doing.

The Gambling Commission believes that all gambling has the possibility of danger; therefore, by decreasing the incidence of gambling, in theory you decrease the amount of danger. This is not founded on any proof and does not consider study about the psychological and genetic triggers of problem gambling. It simply classifies all gambling as negative and a source of danger. I believe that after 20 years the Commission acknowledges that there is no change in how many problem gamblers there are, while the magnitude of gambling has doubled. It would mean that the number of gambling platforms does not really lead to problem gambling at all. It is either psychological or genetic.

The Commission lacks the leverage to pull to decrease the numbers of problem gambling; it is unable to rewire the broke’s brains. However, its moralizing press and political masters are continuously harassing it to decrease numbers. Therefore, why not implement a regulatory establishment that just permits recreational gamblers; people who gamble £25 each week or more? We are all aware that the more vibrant a gambler, the more the possibility of them becoming problem gamblers (although not in a particular manner).  Therefore, present compulsory loss limits at an extremely low rate, as imposed in Sweden already and make operators conduct offensive investigations about all the elements of a gambler’s life if they want to increase their gambling, therefore, making sure they enter the black market.

The outcome is that the amount gambled and number of gamblers is greatly reduced and the Gambling Commission becomes everyone’s favorite again. No one talks about the significant number of gamblers who are compelled to go back to the black market, untaxed, unregulated and unprotected because its nature means you are unable to count precise numbers in the black market. You might believe that it would cause a rise in problem gamblers numbers. Therefore, the commission will just clamp further down, increase the numbers they send to the black market, making the vicious cycle go on.

So, theoretically, we have five years remaining for a practical assessment of the gambling regulations to occur and we hope that it will provide balanced suggestions for a new governing administration. The truth is that in a period of five years, the sector will be overflowing, where the random, un-tested or proven and ever-rising limitations that the Commission will achieve to save its institutional structure will signify it will have eliminated its main objective of keeping most of Britain’s gamblers in a secure, taxed and well-controlled surrounding. The press populists, academia, Parliament and prohibition groups are all going to declare victory in the midst of this sector’s collapse.

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