Part 1: The UK – Covid-19 compounds contraction
around what protections were being offered to
gamblers and when the government’s gambling
review would be taking place.
This review is likely to be conducted at some
point after the crisis has passed. Whenever it
occurs, it is sure to be a bruising battle.
A more immediate test for the sector will
come with the return of elite sports during the
summer. Should the major BGC members wish
to resume a degree of above-the-line advertising
to coincide with the resumption, this is sure to
attract further criticism.
Far from putting the issue of gambling
advertising during the crisis to bed, the
likelihood is the issue will flare up again. Indeed,
when it comes to the various league and team
sponsorships, as well as the pitch-side hoarding
ads, it is fair to suggest that the sector will be
hard-pressed to avoid being heavily associated
with the resumption of sports, for good or ill.
This will leave UK operators exposed at a
sensitive time. How they manage to negotiate this
moment will have a large impact on what happens
when the government gets around to its review.
Commission under fire
While the GRH APPG is very much gunning
for the industry, parliamentarians also have the
Gambling Commission in their sights with the
National Audit Office (NAO) report released in
late February being their weapon of choice.
The parliamentarians’ view was that the NAO
had found the Gambling Commission “not fit for
purpose”, which was one interpretation of the
criticism. A kinder view would perhaps suggest
that the NAO found room for improvement in
the Commission’s approach and indeed from an
Licensees should be under
no illusions that the NAO’s
criticism of the Commission
raises the threat level. We might hope
that the sage advice to encourage and
recognise industry progress will strike
home; but it seems more likely that
the report will lead to a less tolerant
approach from the regulator.
Dan Waugh, Regulus Partners
industry point of view, there are aspects of the
NAO findings that it should embrace.
Dan Waugh, partner at Regulus Partners,
says the report’s findings – namely that the
Commission was pursuing woolly objectives, had
an unclear process of evaluation, was slow to
respond to market changes and displayed gaps in
its knowledge – were “not surprising”.
Pointing to the irony of some of the NAO’s
findings being similarly poorly researched,
Waugh suggests it perpetuates the “myth of
growth” in UK gambling. But he also suggests
that operators should avoid indulging in any
schadenfreude over the Commission being on
the wrong end of some criticism.
“Licensees should be under no illusions that
the NAO’s criticism of the Commission raises the
threat level,” he adds. “We might hope that the
sage advice to encourage and recognise industry
progress will strike home; but it seems more
likely that the report will lead to a less tolerant
approach from the regulator, harder sanctions for
licensing failure and further raids on the piggy
bank of Gambling plc.”
iGB Market Monitor • The UK and Sweden • May 2020 10