Gambling trade bodies are creating a powerful lobbying group amid strengthening regulations

IT Governance has been working with gambling operators for more than 15 years, helping them to comply with a range of regulations, so we were interested to see evidence that two of the UK’s biggest gambling trade bodies are set to merge, creating a new lobbying group that will represent the interests of bookmakers and online betting companies.

The news

A job advert posted by the recruitment firm Ellwood Atfield appears to confirm the long-held rumours that the Remote Gambling Association and the Association of British Bookmakers would merge, the Guardian reports.

One advert is for a chairman and chief executive to shape the new body, which is described as “the largest and most prominent organisation representing the gambling industry”.

The merger comes amid strengthened regulations imposed upon gambling organisations, with the prospect of more to come and a growing backlash against the ubiquity of gambling establishments, adverts and FOBTs (fixed-odds betting terminals).

FOBTs are ‘the crack cocaine of gambling’

The UK government has been heavily criticised for not doing enough to curb the growing gambling culture – including by those within the party. In November 2018, sports minister Tracey Crouch resigned in protest because she believed some MPs were too strongly influenced by gambling lobbyists.

She singled out MP Philip Davies, who she accused of defying her policy by securing a deal to delay the restrictions on FOBTs.

Conservative MP Laurence Robertson and Labour MP Conor McGinn have also defended the use of the machines, which other parliamentarians had called “the crack cocaine of gambling”.

Many politicians questioned the intentions of Davies, Robertson and McGinn, which led to the Independent revealing that they had received more than £7,000 in gifts from bookmakers in the previous year.

Despite their protests, the government cut the maximum bet on FOBTs from £100 every twenty seconds to £2.

Gambling on credit

Although the FOBT issue is resolved, for now at least, the concerns over gambling addiction continue. In its review of online gambling last year, the Gambling Commission said it would also consider “whether gambling on credit should continue to be permitted” as it “increases the risk that consumers will gamble more than they can afford”.

Labour’s deputy leader, Tom Watson, said last September that his party would ban gambling on credit if it came to power, telling the Guardian: “Debt-financed betting on credit cards is wrong. It allows people to bet more than they can afford and particularly affects gambling addicts. Labour will ban it.”

Under current rules, all commercial gambling businesses that hold a licence under the Gambling Act 2005 must abide by that law and the Commission’s LCCP (Licence conditions and codes of practice) or expect regulatory action.

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What does the merger mean for the future of gambling laws?

Anti-FOBT campaigner Matt Zarb-Cousin believes the merger “illustrates how discredited the [Association of British Bookmakers] in particular [is] with policymakers and with government, given the way they handled the issue of FOBTs and their failure to acknowledge any kind of problem, which has led to resistance to any meaningful compromise.

“Ultimately, the £2 stake was enacted, their worst-case scenario, so it’s no surprise they’re looking for a new body to lead on this.”

This will almost certainly come with a change of tactic, because apart from the brief delay in restricting FOTB betting, gambling trade bodies have been unsuccessful in their attempts to restrict regulation. Granted, the industry still has a huge amount of leeway, but financial penalties have also risen steadily in the past few years, from £5.2 million in 2016 to £28 million in 2018.

How IT Governance can help

IT Governance provides consultancy and security audit services, as well as PCI DSS (Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard) support to the gambling industry.

Our team of ISO 27001 Lead Auditors, many of whom also hold CISA®, CISM® or CISSP® certificates, are qualified to carry out annual third-party audits in accordance with the Gambling Commission’s RTS (Remote gambling and software technical standards).

Find out more about our Gambling Commission Security Audit service >>

We can also help you prepare to meet the audit requirements and ensure you pass the audit.

Find out more about our Gambling Commission Security Audit – Gap Analysis service >>

As a PCI QSA (Qualified Security Assessor) company, we can also help operators that process payment cards to comply with the PCI DSS.

Find out more about PCI DSS consultancy >>

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