How can we make gambling regulation fit for the digital age?
Entain's ARC system uses the latest technology to identify problem play and deploy personalised interventions – such as tighter affordability checks and stake limits – in real time
We all want to protect players at risk of developing harmful gambling habits. But regulation should be based on the principle of intelligent, technology-led, targeted protection – not blanket restrictions
The Government’s review of gambling regulation reached an important milestone this week when its call for evidence closed. As CEO of Entain, owner of Ladbrokes and Coral, I welcome and support the review.
It marks an important opportunity for the UK to lead the world in making gambling regulation fit and relevant for the digital age; and to set a course that protects the vulnerable while championing the civil liberty of millions of people who enjoy betting and gaming as safe and affordable entertainment.
The current Gambling Act came into effect 16 years ago when politicians faced a very different landscape. Since then, technology has transformed absolutely everything, and the new regulatory framework must reflect this tectonic shift. If it doesn’t, the sole beneficiaries will be black market operators who threaten not only the vulnerable but the majority.
Companies like Entain have invested millions in cutting-edge technology that is far more effective at protecting players than arbitrary, universal restrictions
This is not an argument for self-regulation; it is a call for smart regulation. Companies like Entain have invested millions in cutting edge technology that is far better at protecting players than arbitrary, universal restrictions.
Our ‘Advanced Responsibility and Care’ (ARC) system uses the very latest technologies to identify and protect the tiny minority who are at risk of developing harmful habits while allowing everyone else to enjoy the moments of excitement that our products provide.
It is a graduated approach that combines behavioural science with terabytes of data and intelligent algorithms to predict and manage problem play. The system quietly intervenes, creating invisible safety nets that are personalised, proportionate, and effective, in real time. Automated interventions – such as tighter affordability checks and stake limits – are deployed based on a customer’s risk profile.
This is why the new regulatory framework should be based on the principle of intelligent, technology-led, targeted protection rather than blanket restriction. This is a pragmatic, rather than academic, argument.
Draconian regulations like income disclosure requirements are unlikely to be effective and, worse, risk driving regular players (not just those at-risk) to the black market. According to research published by PwC earlier this year, one in three players would knowingly switch to black market operators if they faced too many restrictions. The black market is a shady online world of unregulated, unlicensed operators where there are no protections for players whatsoever.
By contrast, our determination to protect players is engrained in our culture and our technology. In the years that have elapsed since the current act came into effect, there has been a seismic shift in our approach to player protection, both in capability and intent. As a result, the incidence of problem gambling is shrinking. The Gambling Commission’s own data shows that between 2019 and 2020, harmful play halved to 0.3 percent of players.
This is no small achievement considering that the industry has attracted millions of new players over the past few years, and particularly over the past twelve months when the pandemic has seen people turn to their screens for entertainment.
The betting and gaming industry has put consumer protection at the heart of everything it stands for. This didn’t happen by accident. It happened because companies like Entain take their responsibilities very seriously and have invested heavily in tools to protect players.
There is of course a central role for regulators. Betting and gaming operators must be held to the highest standards of player protection; we must use data and the latest technologies as effectively and responsibly as possible to prevent harm. It is the architecture and application of player protection that is the proper realm of regulation.
The focus of any new framework should be on the way operators use technology to protect players, not lowest common denominator restrictions on all players. We need principles that protect the vulnerable, not rules that punish everyone.