The CEO of the UK Gambling Commission said it was not his job to make a moral judgement about player spend. “Let’s be clear, you don’t have a choice about us and you’re not required to like us either, but that isn’t how I like to define relationships,” he said. The Gambling Commission’s CEO was appointed last year.
The Gambling Commission plans on working over the next few years and its view on gambling regulation was explained by Rhodes at the CEO briefing last week.
There was a particular vein that the speech ran along. Rhodes painted a picture of a regulator determined to receive more industry input in how it operates, and to be viewed as impartial in all instances, no matter the reputational cost.
He said that it was important for him because it was a key part of his job to set out for you how he wanted to work with you. “You don’t have a choice about us and you’re not required to like us either, but that isn’t how I like to define relationships.”
The Gambling Commission chief said that it was not his job to make a moral judgement about player spend. It’s definitely a break from the past for some that it might feel like an obvious view of a regulator’s role.
It is more than words though. There has been a renewed emphasis on consultation with operators and a new perspective on dealing with seismic industry news as a result of Rhodes’ time in the role so far.
During his time as CEO, McArthur demonstrated this stance as somewhat opposed to what it is today. McArthur was known for communicating in a certain tone, placing emphasis on not being seen as complicit with the industry, without looking at the broader implications or more pressing issues first.
There is a person named Rocky Rhodes
At a time when the Commission was in turmoil, Rhodes joined it. The competition for the fourth National Lottery licence was heating up as the Gambling Act review was underway and the Football Index inquiry was ramping up. The Covid-19 epidemic was at the forefront of this.
Rhodes has dealt with these developments with a broader perspective than McArthur.
The Gambling Commission went through some of the industry’s biggest changes, as well as an era where media scrutiny of gambling dramatically increased. His tenure caused some to view his approach as simplified and others to view it as anti-industry.
Perhaps fearing backlash from anti-industry groups, it was as though McArthur was holding back a little. It was obvious that he believed in the industry, but it was almost on the verge of being irrational. Compared to Rhodes, there wasn’t much guidance and more instruction.
The aim of Rhodes’ tenure was to cultivate a more honest relationship between the UK licence-holders and the regulators.
At a time when the Gambling Commission appeared to be set to impose a £100 soft affordability cap on operators, Rhodes also took charge. The Gambling Act review was the reason why the regulators phased out the matter after he took charge.
That kind of transparency has also been reflected in a changed approach to consultations in general, with Rhodes’ Commission taking in the feedback that the regulator’s past attempts to ask the industry’s views were more of a warning of upcoming rules than a genuine attempt to ask for advice.
During his speech last week, Rhodes stated that the Commission was primarily a licensing regulator and opposed to an economic one.
There has been a large amount of fines and settlements handed out. It can still be argued that Rhodes has a more relaxed approach to the industry than McAuthur. The industry is likely to be receptive to a Commission lead that encourages licensees to operate legally in order to stamp out illegality where possible, as this perspective could work out positively in the long run.
There was a failure of gambling regulations
The scandal surrounding Football Index, an operator that allowed bets to be placed on footballers’ performances in a “stock-market” like structure, could be an example of the more controversial tactics of McArthur.
An inquiry found that the Commission wasn’t aware of the platform’s “sell” feature until it was too late. One year before the collapse, The Guardian reported that the Commission had been warned that Football Index was on the verge of collapse.
This shows a lack of pro activity under the power of McArthur. A clearly different approach has been taken by Rhodes.
While he addressed the Football Index scandal before stepping down, his approach seemed less harsh compared to what he had handed out for other offenses over the years.
He missed something that was happening under his nose while he was trying to catch fish.
There is a review of the Gambling Act
The Gambling Act white paper, which the industry expects to be published in the coming weeks, could destroy all of Rhodes’ work in turning things around. Rhodes could be forced to deliver unpopular news to the industry if it delivers the rumored measures, which include a £125 monthly soft cap on affordability and more strenuous checks for those losing over £2,000 per month.
He will be tasked with implementing the product of the review. Regardless of how he speaks with the industry, there will likely be a lot of frustration as licensees adjust to the measures.
It is not yet known whether this will happen or not. In a pre-Gambling Act white paper world, we can appreciate what Rhodes has delivered so far, at least for the time being.