Gambling Act inquiry need not become pie fight
bookmakers don’t like betting exchanges, offshore gambling operators have an unfair advantage, the funding of problem gambling treatment.
andrew mccarron viewpoint
he members of the UK’s Culture Media Sport Select
Committee may have achieved national and international fame through its inquiry into phone hacking, and their subsequent grilling of Rupert and James Murdoch, but they may have underestimated the size of the task they have undertaken in reviewing the Gambling Act judging by the submissions they have already received. Hopefully, this time no- one needs to leave with any egg (or custard pie) on their face.
Many organisations and individuals have taken the opportunity to have their say about the effectiveness of the Gambling Act - even the DCMS itself has written to the Committee to get in its pre-emptive excuses - and most people are unhappy about one aspect or another that directly impinged on their businesses.
Given the government is also consulting over reform of the Levy and the licensing of remote operators who serve the UK, it appears the industry is about to enter the political field once again. It’s time to reach for the tin hat, get up very early in the morning to buy all available copies of the Daily Mail before anyone else can read them and re-learn the mantra of the
importance of coming to ‘evidence-based decisions’.
It seems a familiar
refrain, though, and most of the arguments are the same ones that were doing the rounds before the Gambling Act even came in - arcade and bingo operators don’t like the gaming machines in LBOs, racing doesn’t believe it’s getting enough money from bookmakers,
If nothing else they will give an air of familiarity to the committee’s chair, John Whittingdale MP, who was shadow culture secretary as the Act was being finalised. What might surprise him is the new bête noire for some operators - the Gambling Commission - which at the time was perceived as the shining hope of the industry and attracted very little dissension.
Whittingdale actually made a somewhat prescient speech at the Bill’s Third Reading in the Commons. He said at the time: “The government certainly appeared for a long time to be in a state of blind panic. What they have done has completely changed the whole thrust of the Bill, and at the very last stage of its passage. They have done so without any consultation with the industry and without any proper scrutiny. In some areas, they have turned a Bill that began life as a liberalising measure into one that will put in place a more restrictive regime than exists at present. By doing so, they have ended up satisfying almost no one.” Hopefully, a Whittingdale-led Committee report can provide some good recommendations that can be included in any changes the government might also be pursuing regarding its approach to remote gambling regulation. The problem with that is that they are just recommendations and a Conservative-led government has other legislative irons in the fire and who knows what the composition of the next government will be just yet. The recommendations might gather dust for another 10 years plus before being rushed through at the last minute. Which will be way too far in the future for the many struggling operators who need help now.
26 BettingBusinessInteractive • AUGUST 2011
Land-based business fully behind
After having positioned itself firmly against the introduction of online gamin American Gaming Association is now backing changes to the country’s law. insight into the shift at the World Gaming Executive Summit.
ixteen years ago, when I took up this position with the Ameri- can Gaming
Association, I came up with a little parody to explain the schizophrenia in the US with regard to gambling. I used an imaginary politi- cian - Senator Foghorn - as an example of American politicians when it comes to gaming, whereby he is asked by a reporter: ‘Senator, what is your stance on gaming?’ This is his response: ‘If you mean playing a high-risk game of chance with all your moral fibre; betting the house; going for broke; or cutting the cards with your loving and unknowing family in the balance. If that’s what you mean, sir, then I am against this devil’s playground
known as gaming. However, if you mean a little friendly wager; a gentleman’s bet; dealing a few hands of poker with your friends; harm- lessly hazarding a guess; spinning the wheel of fortune; or engaging in a little innocuous game of chance that generates bil- lions of dollars worth of rev- enues into the economy. Then, if that’s what you mean, I’m for it. After all, isn’t it our own God-given life a gamble?’
Senator Foghorn has a very schizophrenic view, but it’s a view that still main- tains a great deal of power in the US. We still have this strange marriage of the extreme right and the extreme left in our politics. And that is the venue into which those who wanted to change the laws relating to
online gambling in the US had to enter.
I represent the land- based commercial industry on behalf of the American Gaming Association. From around 1998 until 2008, we opposed all forms of inter- net gambling in the US because we did not believe the technology existed to properly regulate it with appropriate law enforce- ment. That was our position for 10 years. Why? Because our regulators in the US had that position - they had a very deep concern as to whether or not it was possi- ble to regulate internet gam- bling.
As we know, Senator Barney Frank introduced legislation twice following the passage of the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforce- ment Act on October 13,
2006. This failed. As a result of this, the AGA - which includes the major opera- tors and manufacturers in the US - formed a working committee to look at whether the technology existed to properly regulate online gambling and whether it would canni- balise existing bricks and mortar operations. The committee reported to a board meeting at the IGT headquarters in December 2008. On the first question it was clear that, from what was going on in Europe and around the world, the tech- nology did exist. Moreover, 90 per cent of the commit- tee took the view that rather than cannibalising rev- enues, online gaming repre- sented a new profit centre. After a series of con- tentious meetings our posi-
| Page 2
| Page 3
| Page 4
| Page 5
| Page 6
| Page 7
| Page 8
| Page 9
| Page 10
| Page 11
| Page 12
| Page 13
| Page 14
| Page 15
| Page 16
| Page 17
| Page 18
| Page 19
| Page 20
| Page 21
| Page 22
| Page 23
| Page 24
| Page 25
| Page 26
| Page 27
| Page 28
| Page 29
| Page 30
| Page 31
| Page 32