With tougher gambling regulations set to be rolled out in the United Kingdom (UK), the gambling industry is looking at a partnership between two major trade bodies that will result in the creation of a powerful lobby group.
The Remote Gambling Association (RGA), the world’s largest online gambling trade organization, and the Association of British Bookmakers (ABB), which represents betting shop operators in the UK, are set to join forces in order to lobby politicians in relation to upcoming tax cuts and regulatory curbs that will be introduced as part of a nationwide effort to stomp out problem gambling.
Merger Plans Revealed in Job Adverts
The merger plans came to the fore following job adverts published by the recruitment firm Ellwood Atfield, which sought potential candidates who will sit at the helm of a new trade body called “Newco”. The recruitment pages for the two positions presented the requirements and qualifications that the applicants must meet. The positions are for a chairman and CEO who must have a successful track record of influencing the political and lobbying process within Brussels, Whitehall and Westminster.
The jobs also require that the candidates have a strong network within the national and international political and media sector, and should be able to deal with the media on topics that are politically sensitive.
Rumors of a merger between the two leading trade bodies surfaced towards the end of 2018 but were quickly dismissed by the RGA’s former chief executive Clive Hawkswood. However, recent developments indicate that the industry is eyeing a radical reform of its lobbying and advocacy architecture amid looming regulation.
Betting companies have also been placed under the spotlight after a series of scandals which exposed their behavior and influence on policy, which were strongly condemned by the public, the campaigners and the government in general.
Scandals that Shook the Gambling Industry
In recent times, the UK gambling industry has been plagued with numerous scandals that prompted urgent action from the industry regulator and the government. The first case, which involved Ladbrokes, was revealed by the Guardian in 2018. The betting giant agreed to pay £1 million to the victims of a gambling addict who used stolen money to bet, under the condition that the issue should not be divulged to the Gambling Commission. After the scandal was made known to the public, the UK gambling regulator (UKGC) warned gambling firms about the use of non-disclosure agreements.
Ladbrokes also became the subject of an investigation conducted by the UKGC following allegations that the company’s staff tolerated excessive gambling by a problem gambler who took out payday loans to fund his gambling addiction.
Last year, sports minister Tracey Couch stepped down after the planned implementation of tougher restrictions on fixed-odd betting terminals (FOBTs) was postponed. Following her resignation, a group of 70 MPs initiated a cross-party rebellion that later forced the government to reverse its previous decision to delay the FOBT measures. The maximum bet on the machines will be cut from £100 to £2 effective April 1, 2019. The ABB had become the subject of heavy criticism for strongly opposing the new restrictions.
In 2017, 888Holdings was slapped with a record £7.8 m penalty for violations of consumer protection and anti-money laundering regulations. William Hill was also handed a massive fine of £6.2 million for similar offences in 2018.
A Gambling Commission report also revealed that Paddy Power encouraged a gambling addict to keep gambling until he lost his job, his home, and his family. The bookmaker also failed to intervene to prevent money laundering in its FOBTs.
Focus Shifts to Online Gambling
Online gambling and the dangers it poses have now become the new focus of the government after a study by the European Addiction Research found that the widely popular mobile betting apps, which allow unlimited stakes, were deemed more dangerous than FOBTs. Stricter regulations are currently in the works to tackle the issue.
The crackdown on gambling companies breaching the country’s gambling rules has intensified in the last couple of years. We can see this from the increase in financial penalties. The amount in 2016 from fines was £5.2 million which has since skyrocketed to £28 million in 2018. The Gambling Commission is also set to impose a ban on credit card betting, while companies have been forced to take more action to prevent children gambling by stopping advertising during live sports.
Gambling companies are joining forces to combat the growing pressure they are under. As of now, both RGA and ABB have yet to release a statement on the matter.

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