Neil McArthur – If you believe nothing can be done you have already failed

Further regulatory consequences have been threatened to UK betting leadership by Neil McArthur, chief executive of the UK Gambling Commission (UKGC), unless all round improvements are made regarding consumer protections in 2020. 

McArthur addressed both industry leaders and wider stakeholders at ‘CMS Gambling Conference’ in London, in which he underlined the UKGC’s obligation of protecting consumers first and foremost.

Opening up to those in attendance, the chief executive shared personal stories with the room and discussed how the UKGC is trying to ‘change mindsets’: “It is easy to accuse regulators of being ‘asleep on the job’ but it isn’t true. I lead a team who are passionately committed to making gambling safer. 

“I have colleagues on our contact centre dealing directly with consumers, some of whom are in crisis and need help. We meet frequently with people with lived experience and we try and bring them into our work and will try to do more of that, because it helps change mindsets. 

“I have gambled and I can see why people gamble, provided it doesn’t become a problem. At the same time, I spent my early career as a local authority child protection lawyer – I know the terrible effects that addiction and neglect can have on families. 

“Consumers have always been at the heart of our approach to regulation and they always will be.  We don’t suggest that we know better than they do, we bring them into our work and we want to do that more and more in the future.”

McArthur also discussed the extent of the UK’s problem gambling issue and relayed that the right mindset is needed to reduce the 340,000 figure of individuals who are classed within the bracket. Moreover, the chief executive also warned industry leadership that commission will remain ‘tough’ if expectations aren’t met. 

He added: “If you think that we cannot reduce the number of people experiencing gambling related harm, you need to find another job. There is a saying: if you believe nothing can be done, you have already failed.  

“Your mindset is wrong and that self-limiting belief means that you are going to struggle to make progress. So if you cannot change your mindset you need to go and do something else and make way for other people.

“The Commission will continue to be tough on those who do not meet our expectations but I am pleased to be able to say that we are seeing signs that behaviour is changing. When I visit operators, I am introduced to integrated teams, where money laundering and safer gambling issues are shared and a more holistic, real-time, view of each consumer is being built up.”

Reaffirming his commitment to make gambling safer, McArthur acknowledged the progress that has been made, however, reiterated the need for further progress and risk taking within the industry as, due to technological advancements, the risks to consumers is ever increasing.

He concluded: “Changes in consumer behaviour and technology will continue to create new risks to consumers and new opportunities to keep them safer. Taking those opportunities will need us all to take risks. Not everything will work. Nothing will be acclaimed or praised until there is clear evidence that it is having a true impact.

“I and my colleagues at the Commission stand ready to work with anyone who shares our determination to make gambling safer. If we work together, I am sure we can do that.”