The UK Gambling Commission opened up ICE London
ICE London is a global network where gaming professionals across all industry types come together to discuss the latest innovations and is one of the biggest events in Europe.
Andrew Rhodes, the Interim Chief Executive Officer of the UK Gambling Commission, spoke as the keynote speaker at ICE to open up the event. He tackled the upcoming review along with the successes and the failures throughout the pandemic.
"Covid unavoidably accelerated the changes"
He states how the world has changed providing new opportunities and new threats adding: "The gambling market in Great Britain had already gone through radical changes before the pandemic struck. But Covid unavoidably accelerated the changes that were taking place."
"The industry is worth some £14bn, roughly the same size as the UK agricultural industry. Even before the pandemic, online and remote gambling was bigger than traditional bricks and mortar gambling," said Rhodes. "That’s an important share of a financially significant market."
Gambling Commission's success with three crucial changes
"Nearly half the population gamble in one way or another each month. And that shift to online includes an equally important move to mobile," said Rhodes. "Gambling can be (and for some people is) with them every waking hour."
Rhodes goes on to mention three changes that the Gambling Commission has been tackling for a number of years including:
- Banned gambling with credit cards in 2020.
- Protections for High-Value Customers and improved the ad-tech to protect young and vulnerable people.
- Strengthened age and identity verification and GAMSTOP mandatory for online operators in Great Britain.
He adds that the Gambling Commission is looking for new ways to make gambling fairer and safer which will be published in the white paper next month.
Increasingly blurred lines between products such as NFTs and gambling
"When we licence something, we are indicating it comes with some safeguards, standards and consequences," said Rhodes. "Consumers expect to take some value from that and when someone argues that we should not address the issues we see, they are asking us to sanction something simply because someone else on the black market is worse."
In regards to unregulated spaces, he goes on to talk about products that do not meet the definition of gambling such as non-fungible tokens (NFTs) and cryptocurrency.
Rhodes said: "Products such as non-fungible tokens (or NFTs), ‘synthetic shares’, cryptocurrency are becoming increasingly widespread and the boundaries between products which can be defined and regulated as gambling are becoming increasingly blurred."
"Ignore them at our peril"
He mentions that there are no safeguards or standards with these products but a huge risk of harm. "With these evolving products, the pattern is different – it sees more and more deposits – sometimes wildly unaffordable levels, with theoretical increases in value and ever-increasing exposure to loss."
Rhodes added: "When the harm occurs it can be instant and catastrophic, with little or no recourse...These are lucrative growth areas, and we ignore them at our peril."
"We are in the process of changing how we regulate and deal with novel products. Many of these products are not gambling as defined by law, and I am not suggesting we should be regulating them, but I am suggesting we will see this pattern continue and we are likely to see more and more tests of what is and is not gambling, in a way we have not faced before."
"You don't need to gamble to suffer the harms"
"It’s important to make clear that gambling harms can impact anyone and do," said Rhodes. "Our recent figures suggest we are making progress in reducing the number of problem gamblers in Great Britain."
"And you don’t need to gamble to suffer the harms. Family members, friends, communities; all can be blighted by problem gambling."
Rhodes goes on to mention that someone who is experiencing gambling harm with one single operator can move to another as soon as there is an invention.
Distress intercepted at a much earlier stage
"What we are hoping will be possible through the Single Customer View is a position where those who are being flagged as being in distress can be intercepted at a much earlier stage as operators are able to safely alert each other."
Through this Single Customer View, they hope to stop the spiral of damaging levels of gambling before it's too late. In addition to this, the Gambling Commission will be improving how they measure participation in gambling and trailing a new methodology to set a new gold standard of official statistics.
"Collaboration leads to better outcomes"
"We also know that collaboration leads to better outcomes. The Commission has long looked to work with partners in the pursuit of fairer, safer gambling in Great Britain," stated Rhodes. "The National Strategy to Reduce Gambling Harms was designed and delivered through collaboration."
Through this collaboration, the Gambling Commission has delivered improvements through ad-tech, game design and the treatment of High Value Customers.
He added: "It is only through collaboration with other regulators such as our work with the ICO, ASA and CMA in Britain that we can fully protect consumers."
UKGC striving for fairer and safer gambling
"Gambling is a fast-moving, dynamic industry. It is more and more a global tech industry," said Rhodes. "And it has many hangers-on, trying to make a quick buck in the unregulated spaces nearby"
"The potential for innovation has never been so great. But neither has the potential for risk or harm. But we can make gambling fairer, safer and crime-free."
He concluded: "The Gambling Commission will keep striving for fairer and safer gambling. We look forward to working with you all to achieve just that."