Self-regulating the gambling industry

Thursday 26th March 2015

Wanda_headshotchange1-300x450Wanda Goldwag, Independent Standards Commissioner chairing the Senet Group Board, tells Marcus Papadopoulos about Senet Group, the new self-regulatory body in the gambling industry

 Q What is Senet Group?

Loosely modelled on the Portman Group, the self-regulatory body in the alcohol industry, the Senet Group has three major purposes: to help fulfil our members’ commitment to social responsibility; to hold members to account for compliance with codes of good practice; and to work with members, government and regulators to find mutually acceptable solutions to minimise problem gambling

 Q Who runs the group?

We have five directors on the board, which I chair. Three of those five, including myself, are completely independent of the industry. Our background is in regulation and public service; for example, I am a Civil Service Commissioner, Suzanne McCarthy is the UK’s Immigration Services Commissioner and Gillian Wilmot is a member of the Industrial Development Advisory Board. The two other directors represent gambling operators in membership.

 Q Why is an industry self-regulator needed?

The public has been particularly concerned about the possible impact of gambling advertising on children and young people. Senet Group members – William Hill, Ladbrokes, Coral and Paddy Power – have responded by voluntarily banning certain types of advertising which may most affect this group. So, for example, member companies have agreed not to advertise free bet and free money sign-up offers on television before the 9pm ‘watershed’. Alongside that, members with UK betting shops have also committed to withdraw all advertising of gaming machines from shop windows, and to devote 20 per cent of window space to messages about responsible gambling.

Those voluntary advertising measures go beyond those required by Government and the UK regulator, the Gambling Commission.  And our role in enforcing compliance with those commitments should help to strengthen public confidence.

Q How can you be independent as a regulator if your funding comes from the industry?

If funding did not come from the industry, it would have to be the taxpayer who provided the finance so which is better? Besides, the weighting of the board also provides that independence.

 Q Only four of the big bookmakers have signed up to Senet so why do you not have wider membership?

Understandably, other gambling operators wanted to see how we would operate before committing themselves, but I would be surprised if we did not have quite a few more members by this time next year.

 Q What are you doing to prevent problem gambling more widely?

We are running a £2 million advertising campaign on television, on radio, in press and online. Lots of people enjoy a bit of gambling, but for a minority it can get out of hand.

We are giving people five tips to avoid problems: set your limits at the start; only bet what you can afford; never chase your losses; do not bet if you are getting angry; and never put betting before your friends.

Our main message is: “When the Fun Stops, Stop”. All our members are carrying that message on their own advertising, and we are signposting people to GambleAware.co.uk for advice and support.

 Q What is your stance on fixed-odds betting terminals (FOBTs) which some campaigners have called “the crack cocaine of gambling”?

Gaming machines may be in the limelight now, but problem gambling is associated with all types of betting and gaming. We aim to help reduce people losing control of their gambling wherever it may occur.

 Q Would not the advertising money be better spent on treatment?

The campaign is designed to help prevent problem gambling. If we can achieve that, it will be incredibly valuable, reducing the amount of treatment necessary, with all the costs and personal distress involved. Government and the Gambling Commission welcome that.

 Q How will you know if your advertising is effective?

We are investing in research to monitor changes in awareness, attitudes and behaviour. We are not expecting immediate results because it takes time to change the culture. But I believe we have already made an impact.

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