It couldn’t continue forever 

Following another Gambling Commission fine for Entain (Ladbrokes, Coral et al) this week, it really is time to remind people of the fantasy world some have been living in for over a decade.

When the money is rolling-in and a group of humans are benefitting from it, it’s so easy to believe that everything will continue unabated, despite knowing that everything isn’t right.

Those benefiting from UK/Ire gambling industry profits have been myriad, including gambling company investors and staff, some media outlets and their staff, an ever expanding number of gambling company affiliates, pundits, ambassadors, charities, so-called consultants, lawyers, football and other sporting clubs, punters who have known how to profit from offers/been willing to buy identities, to name just a few: The list just grows and grows when you think seriously about it, no doubt readers can name many more beneficiaries.

By believing that the riches could continue forever, what have people being ignoring?  UK/IRE legal, regulated gambling companies have been allowed to;

J4P is sorry to disappoint, but it was delusional to believe these practices could continue forever.  J4P isn’t after-timing, we’ve put out many warnings about the ‘ban or bankrupt’ business model, which has been more or less endemic in the UK/Ire off-course gambling industry.

Why have so many people tried to ignore the obvious and why are so many now blaming campaigners who don’t like commercial gambling’s role in society?  It’s so easy to blame others, but it’s not the fault of campaigners who want to see change for ‘why we are where we are’ now.  It’s the people who developed the aforementioned practices, and those who ignored and benefitted from them that are the problem.  They’ve created and help maintain one unholy mess.

This week, it’s been Entain in the spotlight, but that’s unimportant.  Something that everybody involved with J4P likes to do, namely bet on sports, has been systematically brought into disrepute.  Quite rightly some make accusations about punters, but the number of UK/Ire punters behaving badly is tiny, whereas unfair and unsafe practices used by UK/Ire gambling licensees have been on an industrial scale.

On July 2nd 2022 J4P published this blog:

Unsurprisingly, many people didn’t read it and a tiny few still seem to think J4P is happy with people having their privacy intruded for no good reason, despite our long history of campaigning against punter privacy intrusion before most even thought about it.

This earlier blog was an attempt to outline why ‘we are where we are’ in the gambling industry, as opposed to the nonsense being put around by many with big budgets, who are often compromised by their funding sources and/or what they do for a living.

The UK gambling industry must behave, e.g. it needs to operate within the main objectives of the 2005 Gambling Act:

These are:

  • preventing gambling from being a source of crime or disorder, or being used to support crime
  • ensuring that gambling is conducted in a fair and open way
  • protecting children and other vulnerable people from being harmed or exploited by gambling

We know the industry has failed to behave, so fulfil these objectives, therefore there is a need for more than the self regulation and/or light touch regulation experienced so far.  Needed is:

  • Transparent, fair terms and conditions and implementation of the same (if not damaging fines and eventually removal of licence)
  • Transparent, fair privacy policies and implementation of the same (if not damaging fines and eventually removal of licence)
  • Transparent marketing that clearly states, ‘no winners allowed’ if a minimum bet (liability) law isn’t established (if not damaging fines and eventually removal of licence)
  • Transparent use of customer data, which ensures fair play and protection of those who are vulnerable (if not damaging fines and eventually removal of licence)
  • A new genuinely independent ombudsman with a much wider brief, including being able to rule on social responsibility, privacy practices, contract practices, and the inappropriate use of ‘know your customer’ guidelines (not a new scam ombudsman, which seems might happen). NB: the Betting and Gaming Council are trying to influence how a new ombudsman may operate and who may do the job. No, no, no!
  • Removal of the profit motive to exploit customers (rapid assessment of cases by an ombudsman, and fines for individual cases where relevant, e.g. if a licensee doesn’t act appropriately, a return of losses where relevant, plus a fine)
  • Severe restrictions on gambling products that have the highest known propensity to cause addiction (or a new regulator and a handover of the role of the DCMS to the DHSC)
  • Separate customer wallets for sports betting, poker and casino type products, plus slots (remember anti-money laundering and proceeds of crime guidance is different for sports betting, so perfectly logical)
  • And customers to behave, including sanctions if they don’t, in return for being treated fairly and protected when needed, to the best of everyone’s ability

With the exception of a proposed ‘Single Customer Wallet’, to our knowledge this is the first time any pro-betting organisation, which is not in the pay of the gambling industry, has publicly listed a set of ideas that could remove the need for more privacy intrusions into a huge number of peoples’ lives who like a ‘flutter’ (to quote a Betting and Gaming Council strap line).  Many people, organisations and media outlets have been given the chance to propose their ideas, but so far the coverage has been mostly a reflection of what Australians often think of the English, e.g. moaning ‘Poms’ (nothing constructive offered).

The UK/IRE gambling industry has a big problem, therefore other industries like horse racing, probably has as well.  The constant blaming of the wrong people for this problem is counterproductive, in fact worthless.  What is seen as a ‘crime’ by some, isn’t a crime at all, these people are entitled to their views and to campaign.  All they have done is speak out about a big, important issue that is unfair, and has caused wide ranging harm.  Recently, there has certainly been attempts to improve, but don’t ever think this was led by the industry and their reputation managers, it’s primarily a reaction to the pressures that have built up.

Despite being common, neither lying nor delaying tactics are solutions.  This applies to all parties, not just the reputation managers.

J4P would never be arrogant enough to suggest our ideas presented here are, a or the, solution, but at least we’ve had a go.  They are no more than ideas, but being transparent, fair and removing the profit motive to exploit people surely isn’t a bad place to start.  J4P’s 22K word evidenced-based, where possible, submission to the Gambling Act review focussed on the aforementioned, plus coverage of other unfair practices like the super commissions charged by betting exchanges.  Sadly, we do wonder if anyone will have taken any notice, when others have such easy access to parliamentary corridors of power and to big budgets that are used to ‘entertain’ those in power.

J4P would be interested to hear what others think may work (please no more moaning, it solves nothing), not least because, there IS going to be change, there has to be, due to the present shambles.

This mess has had an extremely good run making some people millionaires even billionaires.  It’s also put many off sports betting who have known the truth about certain practices, and it has harmed an unknown number of people and families.  

It couldn’t continue forever.