Gaming industry urged to unite to avoid regulatory clampdown

Gaming industry urged to unite to avoid regulatory clampdown

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

The betting and gaming sector needs to find a unified voice to shout about the benefits it can offer to society and avoid being sucked into a regulatory black hole, a panel of experts told attendees at EiG 2014 today (Wednesday) at Arena Berlin.

The session followed an informative presentation by Chris Searle, the former chairman of the Portman Group and former international affairs director of corporate and social responsibility at Bacardi, who has helped to transform the reputation of the drinks industry.

Searle was joined by Catherine Colloms, Paddy Power’s director of corporate affairs, and Mathias Dahms, the founder and chief executive of BetterBet Sportwetten and president of the German Sportsbetting Association, and the panellists agreed that the gambling industry does not communicate its benefits effectively to regulators and the public.

“We are fundamentally about entertainment and providing a fun, leisure experience, although that has to be balanced with social responsibility,” Colloms (pictured left) said.

“The broader message is that we don’t often listen to governments. Usually we go in with the same messages about tax benefits, but I think we need to have a clear message about what the industry is bringing in other areas such as jobs, digital skills and technological developments.”

Last month, Dahms (pictured centre) was named as the head of the new German Sportsbetting Association, which has been created in order to seek “sensible” reform of the country’s current regulatory regime.

He is well aware of the need for the industry to engage in positive dialogue with government authorities in order to improve perceptions of the industry in the long term.

“Regulation is one of the most important issues if we are looking to enhance the reputation of the industry,” he added.

“We are still quite a young industry, but you have to listen to governments as ultimately you have the potential to influence them.”

However, the challenge of establishing an effective body to represent the betting and gaming industry was highlighted, with the fragmented sector having found it difficult to find a common voice in specific areas.

“It is important to get back to basics and start with something that applies to the whole industry,” Searle (pictured right) said.

“Perhaps the industry should focus on blocking gaming from under-age players as a starting point, to begin with a level playing field.”

Colloms added: “I think the various companies and stakeholders agree on the basic principles, but the devil is in the detail.

“Since joining the industry a couple of years ago I have been quite shocked by the extent of the infighting between the different sectors such as bingo, slots, land-based and online.

“We are at the start of a long journey to show what we have done. We have talked a lot about social responsibility, but we haven’t got the balance right and we haven’t been very effective about communicating it.”

Dahms said: “Corporate social responsibility is not the first thing we think about, but it has to be in our DNA to enable us to handle these issues.”

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