Gambling 'years behind' drinks industry in social responsibility, expert warns

Gambling 'years behind' drinks industry in social responsibility, expert warns

Wednesday, October 22, 2014 Totally Gaming

The gambling industry is up to 15 years behind the drinks sector in terms of corporate social responsibility, according to Chris Searle, who has helped to transform the reputation of the latter.

Searle is the former chairman of the Portman Group, the responsibility body for drinks producers in the UK, and a former international affairs director of corporate and social responsibility at Bacardi.

“I don’t know much about iGaming, but I have looked at the industry and there appear to be some fig leaves,” said Searle, who led the Outside-In bloc session on how the gambling sector can overcome reputational challenges at EiG 2014 today (Wednesday) at Arena Berlin.

“Frankly what has happened looks like a copy and paste job from the drinks industry.

“I think the gambling industry is 10 to 15 years behind the evolution of the drinks industry when it comes to social responsibility aspects.

“The alcohol industry has had to work hard to get a seat at the policy-making table to get its voice heard.

“With collective leadership you can defend your industry too, but it’s dangerous not to be proactive and leave a policy debate in the vacuum.

“What are the positive benefits of betting and gambling for society? They are not clearly merchandised and visible to the outsider.”

Searle spoke at length about the role of the Portman Group, which was established by UK drinks industry companies and stakeholders to give the sector a unified voice.

“Like your industry, the drinks sector is complex, fragmented and includes various stakeholders,” Searle added.

“Competition inevitably creates self-interest, and it’s very tough to reach an agreement between strong-minded CEOs and businesses. It takes time.

“The challenge in to find a way to work together, but you have to do that because activists love to attack divided industries.”

Searle praised the recent establishment of the Senet Group by the UK’s four biggest bookmakers – Coral, Ladbrokes, Paddy Power and William Hill – which will aim to promote best practice in responsible gambling standards.

“The Senet Group is a positive development and should be encouraged, but it’s just the start,” he added.

“I can see many issues ahead to be resolved, including the risk of it being seen as a big boys club.

“The creation of the Portman Group took eight years of discussion and was established through a consensus-based approach, but it has become a model for other national organisations.”

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