Harris Hagan lawyer: Perceptions present challenge for both industry and regulator

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The industry and the Gambling Commission must reflect on the recent participation and perceptions annual report, says John Hagan of Harris Hagan, who suggests on occasion a more constructive tone for the regulator going forward.


Last week’s industry perception statistics presented a public image challenge for the gambling industry, but also for the Gambling Commission, according to John Hagan of law firm Harris Hagan.

The Commission should also be concerned with findings that 33 percent of people think gambling is fair and can be trusted, and that 41 percent think the pastime is associated with crime, he said.

But, while the regulator requires some self-reflection – and even a slight shift in tone, the onus remains on the industry to take control of its public image by taking a position of compliance-backed strength.

“As far as the Commission is concerned, the tone of their pronouncements cannot have helped” Hagan commented.

The Commission would say that this tone is more than justified, but if they were to reframe some of their headlines, even occasionally, to reflect the work and improvements that have undoubtedly been taking place over the last few years, it might make a difference.

“The Commission itself should be concerned about the findings that only 33 percent of people think gambling is fair and can be trusted and that 41 percent think it is associated with crime.

“After all, the Commission’s remit is to promote the licensing objectives of ensuring gambling is fair and open and keeping crime out of gambling.

“Unfortunately, however, it is the industry itself that has been handing the media and Commission the ammunition in recent times. The industry needs to take control of the public debate and from a position of strength where compliance with law and regulation is the minimum to be expected.”

While it makes for an unsurprisingly negative read, Hagan believes the Gambling Commission’s annual participation and perceptions report also provides a “valuable snapshot and benchmark” for the industry that operators can use to review “their relationships with existing and potential customers”.

On the positive side, problem gambling was down in this particular study, and the British public remained firm on the quintessentially western right to personal autonomy.

“I am pleased to see that rates of problem gambling remain stable, notwithstanding increased advertising and accessibility, but obviously we all wish to see this rate in decline rather than static,”

Hagan said, continuing to further analyse the figures.

“The fact that as many as 6 percent of respondents had bet on eSports in the last 12 months is interesting and, if right, this new gambling phenomenon is happening even faster than expected. My personal highlight of the report is that 64 percent of respondents thought that people should have the right to gamble whenever they want.

This statistic reaffirms my faith in the great British public, their love of gambling and their resistance to being told what to do, and what not to do, in their leisure time. Equally, all the more reason that the industry must take very seriously the concerns about trust, fairness and criminality being expressed by so many of the very same people.”

Concluding, Hagan noted that the majority of findings in the report should be qualified by the fact they “are within the margin of error and, when looked at over the four years of data, demonstrate natural fluctuations in survey results rather than significant changes”.

He added that while many measures remain fairly static, both industry and regulator “should still be concerned about statistics such as that only one third of people think that gambling is fair and can be trusted, and such statistics are most effectively challenged by the industry acting collectively wherever possible”.


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