The new chief of the UK’s gambling industry Brigid Simmonds was joined by consolidated betting business heads at Parliament recently, arguing the industry’s existential case ahead of a new Gambling Act.
In her new guise as CEO of the betting industry’s consolidated trade body the Betting and Gaming Council, Brigid Simmonds joined the leaders from Britain’s five biggest betting companies in travelling to Westminster last week – in order to give evidence before peers of the Lords Select Committee investigating “the Social and economic impact of the gambling industry.”
Kenneth Alexander of GVC Holdings, Ulrik Bengtsson from William Hill, John Coates of bet365, Paddy Power Betfair’s Dan Taylor and Sky Bet COO Conor Grant all joined Simmonds to share insider industry perspectives before the Lords collective, which was formed last year with the stated aim of developing better regulatory oversight.
But it was Simmonds herself who first took centre stage, drawing on her previous experience as head of the rejuvenated pub industry’s trade body the BBPA to heavily underline the gambling industry’s economic contribution to the national marketplace.
“We are an industry that employs and supports 107,000 people in this country, contributing more than £14 billion to the UK economy,” she said. “Tax-wise we make a contribution to the UK treasury of around £3.5bn every year. We are obviously the major contributor for horseracing, at around £350 million a year, and frankly, horse and greyhound racing would not survive in this country without our support.”
Simmonds also used the platform to address concerns from lawmakers that the formation of the BGC was merely an attempt on the part of betting operators to “regulate themselves before the government regulates the industry.” That was a misinformed perspective, so Simmonds argued, countering that the BGC’s founding was prompted by its incumbents “recognising that the industry has not been the best in class,” and that as such it was required for operators to make “big commitments and actions” to shift public perceptions with regards to gambling business.
As for the bookies top brass, they concurred with the now seemingly pervasive view that a review of the Gambling Act of 2005 is now imminent and necessary, but wished to draw the attention of parliamentarians to the “channelling” of customers away from the regulated online sector to black market alternatives.
“At the moment bet365 is licensed in 15 different countries and we see dependent on the level of the regulation you see different levels of channelling,” said the company’s vice president John Coates. “This has been one of the successes of the Gambling Act, in that channelling is pretty high in the UK when compared to other countries.”