The Gambling Commission’s experts by experience initiative has come under attack from key figures of the industry who argue that it’s a major step towards regulation through lobby group rather than through the law. The introduction of experts, many drawn from the anti-gambling community, has opened the debate as to whether the Commission is tipping the scales away from balanced regulation. Peter Hannibal of the Gambling Business Group talks to Coinslot about the concept.
Gambling Business Group CEO, Peter Hannibal, has called out the ‘Experts by Experience’ initiative formally revealed by the Gambling Commission last week, for lacking the necessary breadth to accurately reflect an entertainment experience that’s enjoyed by the overwhelming majority of people who gamble. He confirmed that proper consumer engagement is a welcome step for the regulator to take, but it needs to be both balanced and proportionate.
Quoting the findings of the most extensive research into the prevalence of gambling harm, Hannibal said: “From the results of the Commission’s own analysis of the Gambling Participation survey 2019, which for the vast majority of stakeholders is the most referenced piece of work of its kind, we know that the statistically stable problem gambling rate is 0.5% of the adult population.”
“The industry is working alongside health and education professionals to provide the resources to research the causes of problem gambling as well as the treatment of problem gamblers and as we have seen from recent announcements by the Betting and Gaming Council, that work is continually ramping up”.
“As it stands, the Commissions’ Experts by Experience Group only comprises people and their families who have suffered gambling harms through disordered gambling. How can this result in any meaningful representative engagement when extremely important issues impacting the industry and all of its consumers are only being seen through the prism of previous addiction?
“What reference is being taken of the vast, vast majority who enjoy gambling and incorporate it as one component part of their leisure spend? At some stage, the regulator needs to recognise that it oversees an industry that has and continues to uphold high standards of social responsibility. Yes, improvements need to be made to further protect the vulnerable, but the enjoyment and freedom of choice for the large majority of gamblers need also to be recognised and respected.”
Hannibal’s concerns are given extra credibility by the Gambling Commission’s launch announcement in which it confirms the purpose of the Experts by Experience Group which it says will help inform decision making by providing advice, evidence and recommendations.
He continued: “The introduction of Experts By Experience to the decision making process should be balanced, fully transparent and completely independent. It is currently none of these.”
“GBG members would like to know the answers to a number of key questions, not least the criteria for the appointment of EBE members, the group’s terms of reference, how it is to be moderated and by whom and how the regulator proposes to ensure that their input and evidence is balanced and proportionate with the vast majority of consumers who find gambling entertaining and fun?
“Views and opinions can range from those who are constructive and progressive with their thinking and genuinely want to improve things for everyone, to those who believe that the only answer is prohibition”. “It’s a very real fear that all future proposals for legislative and regulatory change proposed by the Gambling Commission will have been recommended and/or endorsed by the EBE Advisory Group prior to any consultation, leaving us, the industry and other stakeholders, out in the cold with no effective or meaningful voice. We can all learn a huge amount from EBEs – not just the Gambling Commission – if they are representative and if they are moderated fairly, but I have to say that due to the lack of transparency, there’s widespread and genuine concern over the Commission’s underlying objectives.”
Experts by Experience: What they said
Gambling Commission Chief Executive, Neil McArthur, said: “Our goal is to make gambling safer for consumers and the creation of the interim group is another important step in helping us bring a wider range of perspectives into our work.
“We will work with the interim group to co-create a formal Advisory Board, which will allow us to involve Experts by Experience more closely in the development of our regulatory framework.
“I am really grateful for the open and constructive way in which members of the interim group have shared their personal experiences of gambling related harm and for everyone’s commitment to work together to tackle these important issues. It is early days and we are learning along the way to ensure that feedback and advice is utilised in the most effective way. This week we looked at the subject of affordability and we’ll be focused on other areas of player protection online in the weeks ahead.’
A spokesperson for the Interim Group said: “The Interim Group comprises a group of people who have suffered a wide range of gambling harms, including recovering gambling addicts, family and partners of addicts, and those who have lost children to gambling suicides.
“The role that is too often allocated to Experts by Experience (EbEs) of telling our stories and commenting on narrowly defined questions is ineffective, so the establishment of the group is long overdue.
“We are determined that EbEs should play a continuing and much more active role in the deliberations and decision making across the whole remit of the Commission as part of the National Strategy to reduce gambling harms. We bring a new and vital perspective on key issues of regulation and even how the Commission itself works.”