Aside from repeating the new Gambling Commission mantra – “gambling is normal, harm must not be” – the regulator’s Deputy CEO Sarah Gardner honed in on product design, age verification and cashless wallet technology as three areas to watch during her speech to this year’s Bacta AGM.
Keeping on message at this week’s AGM, Gambling Commission deputy CEO Sarah Gardner repeated many of her interim CEO’s earlier comments verbatim in her speech, while adding a more amusements-specific focus on product design, age verification and cashless wallets.
“Gambling is normal” and “the top line measures of harm are coming down” are admissions from the regulator that the industry were happy to hear again, given its hard work on reducing problem gambling. Of course, Gardner also reminded the industry that “this is not a time for complacency”, and that “the Gambling Commission will continue to be relentless in investigating and taking action against operators who don’t meet our standards.”
Sticking rigidly to the new party line delivered by Andrew Rhodes, interim CEO of the regulator, to the entire UK gambling industry during Safer Gambling Week, Gardner did manage to hit on some specific issues relevant to the amusement sector.
“On the High Street, at the seaside and on the game machines in pubs and clubs up and down the country – there are some key things that the Gambling Commission are focussed on that, in the spirit of collaboration we want to build, we would like to work with you on now,” she said, outlining product design, age verification and cashless wallets as particular interests.
“The Commission welcomes the efforts that many of you are making in [age verification] and have done already and we appreciate Bacta continuing to support operators with sessions on how to be compliant, such as at the successful Social Responsibility Exchange earlier this month,” she added. “We also welcome steps by the machines sector to think about solutions for age verification in the pub sector. Our own work with local authorities shows there is far more that needs to be done in this area and the Commission looks forward to your next steps.”
On product design, Gardner revealed the Commission is working with Bacta and operators on a new code for game design on machines, before she turned to cashless wallet apps, with a positive view that they can be used to make gambling safer.
“Consumers can download these to their phones to pay for their machine play digitally, and we understand they are being rolled out on more machines across the sector. It’s vitally important to focus on the consumer experience and tech plays a big part in that,” she said. “Given cashless use has also been accelerated by the pandemic, this is an important area for innovation and these solutions can be a big step forward for safer gambling. For example, this technology provides a format where players can set limits on their spend and keep track of their machine spend over time.”
She concluded that the collaboration between regulator and industry is “on the right track”, urging continued progress and communication between both parties going forward.