About Bloody Time

It’s been nearly a year since I last posted. I took a job in the gambling industry and it didn’t seem right to be throwing rocks around while I was in my shabby little greenhouse. I’ll tell that sorry tale in time, but for now self-indulgence can wait, because it finally happened…

The government actually published their white paper on gambling! And you know what? It’s actually pretty good.

The folks behind it have clearly paid attention to the clamour of competing voices and have largely come up with a comprehensive, common sense and coherent set of recommendations. The fact that there have been very few loud dissenting voices suggests that everybody is grudgingly satisfied with the outcome.

The only substantial losers are the online operators, who (according to the paper) stand to lose between 8-14% of their revenues. That is mostly comprised of the profits from problem gamblers they’ve been mercilessly squeezing, so don’t let your heart bleed too heavily for them.

They haven’t really piped up, because the damage could have been a lot worse. Their shareholders obviously don’t seem to mind this outcome because stock prices of gambling firms have barely moved on the news.

My main complaint about the legislation is that it took 18 months longer to produce than it should have done, but I have a few other quibbles:

Q1 – Max stakes of up to £15 for slot machines remains obscene. You could easily spank through a week’s wages playing at £2 a spin for an hour. That has to be much lower.

Q2 – Advanced affordability checks kicking in at a daily loss £1K is also far too casino friendly. Most people in the UK cannot afford to lose a grand in a day, so coming to their rescue once they’ve exceeded that threshold would be like popping an extra lock on Shergar’s stable door.

Q3 – Stop singling out 18-24s for special treatment. That adds confusion and complexity for all concerned. If there is a rule or restriction that makes sense for young people, then it makes sense for everyone.

Q4 – A favourite phrase of the paper is “when parliamentary time allows”, which suggests this could take some time to implement. Seriously, hurry the fluck up.

Q5 – You cannot let the operators decide how much of someone’s disposable income they should be allowed to lose. That libertarian loophole stinks of the BGC and their happy gang of stooge MPs. The answer here is simple – set a sensible percentage and massively fine anyone that exceeds it.

Need help with that? Okay, 25%. Done. No-one should be spending more than a quarter of their disposable income on gambling.

Now to some positives – because this is a piece of work that should really be celebrated.

P1 – A proper ombudsman. Obvious and easy, but well done for listening and including this. Do let me know when you begin hiring. I’m happy with hybrid work, but I would prefer a four day week.

P2 – More power to the UKGC to police and punish. Hopefully the additional levy will mean they can get the quality of staff required to perform the role properly.

P3 – Allowing live casinos to be a bit less rubbish. Most of this legislation is about addressing issues with regulation of online, but it’s good that brick and mortar has not been forgotten. I don’t go to those miserable places any more, but I’m glad they’re being given the platform to compete.

P4 – Encouraging a non-invasive approach to affordability checks. As a consumer, I hate being required to provide documentation when all the relevant information is in the public domain (e.g. goverment databases and open banking). As an operator, I hated inconveniencing customers with onerous paperwork and procedures. Administrative sludge is not the answer to safer gambling.

P5 – Addressing addiction at source. By far the biggest problem with the most damaging games is the way they are being built to exploit. By recognising that this can be tackled, and giving regulators the power to do so, the most poisonous products can be de-fanged.

It’s that last point that gives me the biggest cause for optimism, and for me it’s the piece of evidence that the authors really have been listening carefully. It’s a tricky area to fix, but with good people and the right tools, huge progress can be made. If I haven’t already made it clear, I am available.

Overall, a giant leap forward. Let’s not leave it another 18 months though, eh?

2 thoughts on “About Bloody Time

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