UKGC: Balance is the academic challenge of the Gambling Review

Andrew Rhodes has reiterated that the Gambling Review’s underlying challenge is to find the right balance to govern a commercially evolving UK gambling marketplace and its engagement with the public.

The observation led the Chief Executive of the UK Gambling Commission’s (UKGC) address to delegates of the ‘Consumer Protection Zone’ at ICE London 2024.

The address began by acknowledging that global gambling’s biggest trade show was departing London to a new home in Barcelona next year. Rhodes praised ICE for facilitating valuable discussions for the gambling sector addressing its concerns.

“ICE has had its ups and downs in recent years but it has often provided a good space for industry, regulators and others to meet, share ideas and discuss shared challenges.

“So whilst this is the last ICE in London for the foreseeable future at least, we know the discussions across the Expo and especially here in the Consumer Protection Zone will be of great value this week.”

In its remit as a regulatory authority, the UKGC governs the rules, conduct, standards and supervision of a highly competitive and evolving UK gambling market. A reality that is recognised by the Commission’s policy, research and enforcement units.

Rhodes described the governance of UK gambling as being in “constant motion, akin to a wave with peaks and troughs, oscillating between tightening regulations to minimise harm and maintaining a fair market, to allowing for unrestrained consumer choice and industry innovation”.

“Gambling never stands still. Through innovation, changes in regulation and of course consumer behaviour itself, the ecosystem of gambling is, if not in constant flux, at least always changing as each of us look to change the balance to better suit how we think it should be.”

As such, UK stakeholders must acknowledge that UK gambling (land-based and online) has reached its point of maturity, as the market sees 22.5 million Brits gamble in one form or another each year – 44% of the adult population.

Yet at a point of peak maturity and competition, Rhodes stands by the civic duty of UK gambling to protect “the small proportion of people who do experience problems”, who “though small compared to the number of people who gamble, represent hundreds of thousands of people”.

The UKGC’s approach, as Rhodes articulated, is not to stifle the industry’s growth or innovation but to ensure that it is coupled with strong consumer protection measures.

The balanced perspective extends to the use of technology and data, which Rhodes sees as pivotal in understanding patterns of gambling behavior and identifying potential harms. The Commission has prioritised prevalence statistics to fill evidence gaps.

The UKGC, under Rhodes’s guidance, seeks to be a forward-thinking regulator—one that is agile enough to adapt to the digital age while holding firm to its core mission of safeguarding consumers.

As the White Paper’s recommendations remain under consultation, Rhodes acknowledged “cynicism around consultations but we welcome all views”, in which the Commission will consider all responses carefully.

Rhodes concluded by reflecting on the role of public opinion in shaping the industry’s future. He stressed the importance of maintaining open lines of communication with the general public to understand their concerns and expectations.

Rhodes concluded: “I think we need to accept in a difficult debate that someone can have a different view to yours, but in setting out a different perspective or highlighting the evidence, we are not necessarily trying to take someone’s opinion away from them.

“Getting the balance right is important and keeping that balance is a job that’s never done. Thank you for listening to me today.”