Betting and Gaming Council Accused of Tweaking Data as Reform Talks Begin

Posted on: July 11, 2023, 07:21h. 

Last updated on: July 11, 2023, 12:18h.

The UK Gambling Commission (UKGC) has announced four consultations to discuss the gambling white paper with industry insiders. Although it has laid out the topics for discussion, it might add a new one after the Betting and Gaming Council (BGC) was accused of manipulating data to support its own narrative.

Betting and Gaming Council boss Michael Dugher in an interview
Betting and Gaming Council boss Michael Dugher in an interview. A parliamentarian accuses him and the BGC of misleading consumers through the group’s PR efforts. (Image: The US Sun)

BGC boss Michael Dugher will appear before a Department of Culture, Media, and Sport (DCMS) committee on Tuesday. The goal of the meeting is to go over the proposals the government presented when it published its white paper just over two months ago.

Dugher can expect the conversation to be sidetracked, however. On Monday, Member of Parliament (MP) peer Lord Foster of Bath wrote a scathing report on the BGC’s modus operandi, according to the Guardian.

Misdirection Through Creative Writing

Foster accuses the BGC of incorrectly reporting industry statistics in an effort to drum up opposition to gambling reforms. As a result, the parliamentarian now questions the reliability and integrity of the gaming industry lobby group.

In supporting his argument, Foster cited several examples. One referenced a BGC statement that identified an increase in illegal betting during the World Cup last year.

Dugher and the Council asserted in its statement that research proved that over-regulation on the part of the government would lead to greater black market gambling. However, according to Foster and the Guardian, which saw the actual research, participation in unregulated betting only accounted for 1% of the entire amount.

Dugher also faces an accusation of outright lying about the report. In a press release from January, he said the report indicated that far-reaching affordability checks could damage the industry. According to the Guardian, there’s no mention of affordability checks in the report.

Foster accuses the BGC of not presenting the report’s data properly or accurately, a pattern that it had previously demonstrated. He said that Dugher tweeted last December that the BGC “fully and publicly supported” a government plan to prohibit the use of credit cards for gambling.

Foster rejected the assertion, citing a previous UKGC survey that showed that no online gaming operator had supported the idea. However, it must be pointed out that Foster referred to a survey the regulator had conducted in 2020, and a lot could have changed in that two-year span.

There’s also a claim that the gambling industry’s voluntary decision to pull back on TV advertising reduced content visible to children by 97%. The actual figure was 70%, with the BGC accused of mispresenting the results to put the industry in a better light.

Long Road to Reform

When the UK published its gambling white paper, there was immediate criticism on both sides. Any assertion that an industry-related entity is manipulating data or content will likely only serve to give gambling opponents more ammunition. The claims against Dugher and the BGC, if true, also make it difficult for the gaming industry to feel confident about statements the group makes.

The UKGC will likely take that into consideration when it begins to hold its series of consultations. The British government hopes to implement most of the measures before mid-2024, although the regulator has acknowledged that it’s going to be a lengthy process.

The UKGC has plans to release guidance on various aspects surrounding online gambling. This guidance will cover areas such as online game design, handling financial risks, and managing vulnerabilities. It will also provide directives for direct marketing, sales, and ensuring proper age verification on gambling websites.

Two other consultations are coming that aren’t the result of the white paper. These address management licenses and regulatory procedures.

Each consultation period, which welcomes feedback from industry players, will remain open for 12 weeks, concluding in October. There will then be additional consultations covering responsible gaming inducements, management tools, and other topics.

Next year, new elections will take place and the incoming government may have a different vision on gambling. That is why supporters of the reform hope that many of the measures will be in place before then.