The UK Gambling Commission (UKGC) has initiated discussions with industry insiders through four consultations to address the gambling white paper. However, the recent accusations against the Betting and Gaming Council (BGC) of distorting data to serve its own agenda may cast a shadow over the proceedings.
The accusation made
Today, BGC chief Michael Dugher is set to appear before the Department of Culture, Media And Sport (DCMS) committee to review the government’s proposals outlined in the white paper. Nevertheless, the conversation is expected to deviate from its intended course. Member of Parliament (MP) peer Lord Foster of Bath recently released a scathing report that scrutinizes the BGC’s modus operandi, as reported by The Guardian.
Lord Foster accuses the BGC of misrepresenting industry statistics to generate opposition to gambling reforms, thereby raising concerns about the reliability and integrity of the gaming industry’s lobby group. To support his argument, he cites various examples. One such instance involves a BGC statement claiming an increase in illegal betting during the World Cup last year. According to Foster and The Guardian, the actual research shows that participation in unregulated betting constituted only 1% of the total.
Additionally, Dugher faces allegations of dishonesty regarding the report. In a press release from January, he stated that the report indicated potential damage to the industry from extensive affordability checks. However, The Guardian found no mention of affordability checks in the report.
Lord Foster asserts that the BGC consistently presents data inaccurately, distorting the findings to suit its narrative. He highlights a tweet by Dugher in December, where he claimed that the BGC “fully and publicly supported” the government’s plan to ban the use of credit cards for gambling. Lord Foster disputes this, citing a previous UKGC survey that revealed no support from online gaming operators for the idea. However, it is worth noting that Foster referred to a survey conducted by the regulator in 2020, leaving room for changes in the intervening two years.
Another accusation targets the BGC’s claim that the gambling industry’s voluntary reduction in TV advertising resulted in a 97% decrease in content visible to children. In reality, the figure was 70%, implying that the BGC misrepresented the results to portray the industry in a more favorable light.
The consequences ahead
These accusations, if proven true, not only provide opponents of gambling with additional ammunition but also undermine the credibility of the BGC’s statements, leaving the gaming industry skeptical.
As the UKGC commences its consultations, these allegations will likely be taken into consideration. The British government aims to implement most of the measures outlined in the white paper by mid-2024, acknowledging that it will be a lengthy process.
The UKGC plans to release guidance on various aspects of online gambling, including online game design, financial risk management, vulnerability handling, direct marketing, sales, and age verification on gambling websites.
Two additional consultations unrelated to the white paper will address management licenses and regulatory procedures. Each consultation period will span 12 weeks, concluding in October, with further consultations planned on responsible gaming inducements, management tools, and other relevant topics.
With new elections scheduled for next year, there is a possibility of a shift in the government’s stance on gambling. Reform supporters are hopeful that the majority of the proposed measures will be implemented before any potential changes in political leadership.
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