Rhodes Lays Out Plans for the Year Ahead in Speech to Gambling CEOs and Stakeholders

Rhodes Lays Out Plans for the Year Ahead in Speech to Gambling CEOs and Stakeholders

UKGC Chief Executive Andrew Rhodes has hit back against the “unedifying” misuse of industry statistics while reiterating the need for transparent working relationships with UK operators and a greater balance of interests in the year ahead.

Rhodes has set out the Commission’s aims for the year ahead in a speech given to industry stakeholders. The yearly address focused on the current challenges faced by the industry and how the Commission plans to navigate them. It comes during an unprecedented change for UK gambling operators, which is set to threaten profit margins while shoring up new player protections in law.

As head of the UK’s Gambling Commission, Rhodes has been forthright about his expectations that operators step up and stop stalling on several occasions, proving himself more than capable of leading the commission through turbulent times. Let’s take a closer look at how he sees the next year playing out from a regulatory point of view.

Looking Back: The Last 12 Months

Looking back on the last 12 months, Rhodes recognized the achievements, thanking those stakeholders who had contributed their full support in tackling cases of extreme gambling harm. At the same time, he reminded stakeholders of the dangers of polarising the public debate.

“The debate around gambling has not become an easier one. I have found myself saying several times how polarised different positions sometimes are.

[It has been] exceptionally hard to engage in during the past year, and, as I said we would last year, we have challenged people where they have misrepresented statistics. We have sought to bring some balance and evidence to the arguments.

Everyone is entitled to their opinion, but some of what has gone on has been an unedifying sight, and I am not sure is helping anyone.”

Looking Forward: Transparency and Collaboration

Rhodes stressed the Commission’s impartial stance and the need for open conversations before turning to the more complex topic of balancing “licensing objectives and legitimate innovation, consumer choice and fair business practice”.

He stated that thanks to the reduction in cases of extreme harm, the industry could now turn its attention to creating an equilibrium between business goals and new regulations, using an outcomes-based approach.

“We believe an outcomes-based approach is proportionate and reasonable. We recognise that the market is diverse and one-size-fits-all solutions aren’t always best. What one operator regards as risk will differ to another’s – which makes the middle ground harder to judge. This also means consistency isn’t easy.”

According to Rhodes, the solution is technology twinned with human judgment and an effective and constructive relationship between the Commission and operators.

Consistency was a running theme, and he spoke in-depth about the range of often conflicting information provided in UKGC guidance and documents, explaining that the gambling ecosystem and risk profiles were continuously evolving, as should operators’ attitudes towards compliance.

Challenging The Threat of the Black Market

In response to the upcoming regulations in the White Paper, many industry stakeholders have voiced concerns over the last year that it will lead to a growth in black market gambling. However, in the previous few months, the Commission has been combating access to offshore sites and successfully cutting access to four of the top 10 offshore sites targeting UK players, resulting in a 46% reduction in traffic.

Rhodes further clarified the Commission’s position on this point, reinforcing gambling commissions’ more collaborative and international approach worldwide.

“The risk of illegal gambling and the black market as an argument against reform of regulation is, I think, overstated, based on what we see in reality.

As I have often said, that does not mean there is no risk. It does not mean there are no problems. I hear many anecdotal examples from you, but we must turn that into something actionable.

It is worth noting that other regulators worldwide are looking at this problem, too, and some of you are in the black market in those countries. You should expect greater attention from Governments and regulators internationally, especially where legitimate routes exist to gain a license in that country.”

The Right to Bet

One area of the speech that is particularly interesting for players was the “right to bet” argument. Rhodes said that while players have no legal right to bet, the Commission would invest in greater operator transparency with consumers when refused or withdrawals are delayed. He added that the UKGC had received increased complaints from players who felt their accounts were restricted because they were winning.

White Paper Implementation

Rhodes recognised that much of the following year would focus on implementing the White Paper’s recommendations. He ended the address by stressing again the need for the entire industry to work together.

“Ultimately if we can all commit to working together, it will lead to better regulation, better outcomes and safer, fairer, and crime-free gambling across Great Britain.”

What Does This Mean For Players?

Greater collaboration and transparency among the UKGC and industry stakeholders is good news for players as it means smoother implementation of the Gambling Act Review. The most impactful new regulations are likely the upcoming affordability checks and slot stake rules.

Additionally, with the UKGC’s clamp down on illegal gambling sites, access to crypto casinos may soon be cut.

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