Bingo Association highlights flaws in RET strategy

Bingo Association highlights flaws in RET strategy

Wednesday, June 13, 2018 Posted by Joseph Streeter
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The group has responded after the triennial review

With the dust finally settling in the wake of the gaming review that stripped B2 machines of their maximum £100 stake, policy makers are now left with the task of sifting through the many related consultation responses submitted by the industry. Among them is the Bingo Association (BA) submission which covers several areas of concern including the return to a bona fide Triennial Review and the threat of a mandatory levy to fund research, education and treatment (RET) into problem gambling.

On the issue of a mandatory levy the association responded by saying there are other actions that could be pursued first. “The Gambling Commission could and should name and shame operators who fail to comply with their obligations under the licensing conditions and codes of practice (LCCP),” it said. “For example those operators who fail to make their appropriate contribution to RET, should have their details (and shortfall) published. Therefore, BA does not necessarily agree with a compulsory levy especially in the absence of any understanding of the criteria likely to be used.” 
It added: “BeGambleAware is not the only suggested recipient of funding intended for the use of RET in gambling. All Gambling Commission calculations/assumptions should not necessarily be based solely on BeGambleAware’s reporting but should include all donations. Also the guidance and procedures for donating via Be GambleAware could be improved. However, it is fair to recognise they are far better than in the days of the Responsibility in Gambling Trust (RIGT). 

“The BA would recommend making it clear that all donations or pledges are made on the previous year’s reported accounts rather than now where operators tend to wait for current year accounts to be finalised before judging their donations. Otherwise you are asking them to guess. BA believes donations/pledges should be given per licence held not by operating company so it is clearer what element of a company donation relates to which set of businesses and of course BA believes any reporting on donations should include non BeGambleaware donations.” 

The BA also argued in its response that the introduction of a statutory levy would have the effect that it would only apply to licensed operators, thereby removing the possibility of receiving monies from peripheral businesses who currently make a voluntary donation. “A levy could mean that operators might lose direct engagement and relationships with the work undertaken by harm prevention charities engaged in research, education and treatment,” it said.

While the association called for the status quo to remain largely in place for the current set of machine stake and prize levels, it did seek a “return to the certainty of the Triennial review taking place every three years, to give it the opportunity to collect evidence which is timely and relevant”. 

It also cited disagreement with government thinking on cashless payments, arguing that “...DCMS gave no credible reasons why it would not consider The Bingo Association’s proposal to work with the Gambling Commission to discuss how contactless payments could be made in a way that protects the consumer. This would involve creating a code of conduct to ensure social responsibility protections while being able to use the technologies that are rapidly becoming the dominant form of payment.   

“It is hard to reconcile the DCMS’ view that the use of cash ‘gives players more control over their play’, while the Gambling Commission states that the use of anonymous cash is dangerous and gives rise to harm. In summary – any principle describing innovation and change as a ‘backward step’ is concerning to an industry that desperately needs to innovate and meet future challenges.” 
BA chief executive Miles Baron told “The Bingo Association was of the opinion that the government and the regulator where not of a mind set to grant increases in stakes and prizes on gaming machines to any gambling sector whilst the acrimonious debate around FOBT’s was coming to a head. Therefore there was little point in asking for anything further at this time and the BA focus was more around cashless and contactless payments.”

Totally Gaming says: This was a measured and considered set of responses from the Bingo Association, delivered with a refreshing absence of bluster and overtly emotive language. That isn’t to say it lacked firmness. The idea of a ‘name and shame’ policy for those who don’t do their bit for RET, for example, is clearly very controversial. But in a sector of industry where self-image and being seen to do the right thing are high on the list of corporate criteria, such a policy might well prove incredibly effective! 

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