The necessity of building and maintaining a strong network is a familiar construct among numerous industries, and is certainly one that is not lost in the gaming community.

However, among the multitude of strategies and expert tutorials in how best to achieve such a goal, is the question of: how much do you know you network? With this in mind, CasinoBeats is aiming to take a look under the hood, if you will, and has tasked the 100 Club to help out.

Today, we hear from David Clifton, director at ‎Clifton Davies Consultancy, who elaborates on a background of London-based theatre acting, looks back at casinos moving on from dingy back streets and basements, and asks if it’s too late for the industry in the UK PR battle.

CasinoBeats: Could you begin by talking us through any past experiences that have been gained outside of the gambling industry? Could your career have taken any different paths?

David Clifton: On qualifying as a solicitor in 1981, my legal career started in the field of commercial litigation with fairly unexciting debt recovery work for landlords and banks, but I soon started to enjoy wider areas of advisory work for clients in the music, theatre, hospitality and leisure sectors.

That in turn led to alcohol and entertainment licensing work, with highlights including work for major pub companies and nightclub operators, celebrity restaurateurs, hotel and cinema groups, music venues and festivals. Somehow, I also managed to find time to act in a good many London fringe theatre productions.

In the highly unlikely event that anyone had been misguided enough to offer me a film or TV role, who knows where my career might have gone? Into complete obscurity probably.

“Back then, quite a number of casinos were still located in dingy back streets and basements”

CB: What was it that eventually led you into this industry?

DC: The law firm I joined in 1979 (and retired from as managing partner in 2013 to start up Clifton Davies Consultancy Limited with Suzanne Davies) acted for what was back then the UK’s largest casino company, called Pleasurama (which, after several changes of ownership, is now part of the Rank Group). I started to handle their debt recovery work in 1983. That developed into undertaking their licensing and regulatory work in 1985 and the rest, as they say, is history.

CB: How would you assess your progress through the industry to date? Are there any interesting anecdotes that would interest our readers, or any stand out experiences that may not have been possible without the current, or a past, role?

DC: Having had nearly 40 years’ involvement in the gambling industry, what I can say with 100 per cent certainty is that nothing has stood still. The industry – and its associated panoply of regulatory requirements – is so very different now than it was in the early 1980s. Back then, quite a number of casinos were still located in dingy back streets and basements.

That all changed as the likes of Grosvenor Casinos started to develop their modern brand in large-scale new-build sites throughout Great Britain, very effectively promoting casino gaming as a mainstream leisure activity. Prior to 2007, a ‘demand test’ applied under the Gaming Act 1968 meaning that new casino licence applications were almost always hotly contested by competitors in those days.

“…is it already too late for the UK industry to stand any chance of winning the PR battle”

Sometimes hearings before local magistrates could take as long as a week. I learned my trade as a court advocate from the master licensing barrister, Sir Richard Beckett QC, to whom I will always owe a huge debt of gratitude. The advent of online gambling occurred in the mid-1990s and most readers will know how far that has developed since then.

I have had the immense pleasure of playing my own part in that development, representing a wide range of very successful entrepreneurs and businesses in each of the remote casino, bingo, betting, gambling software and lottery sectors (and, in the process, making some very good friends) since that time.

CB: What would you say have been the major changes during your time working in the industry? Both for the better and worse.

DC: Undoubtedly the major change has been the boom in online gambling, bringing to the industry as a whole a very considerably greater focus on consumer protection and AML, as well as associated enforcement activity by gambling regulators.

Some of that has most certainly been for the better in terms of ensuring the UK industry enjoys one of the best reputations in the world for fairness and protection of the vulnerable. Where concerns arise regarding the proportionality of regulatory oversight (of which the current affordability debate provides an example), it can be for the worse.

If you could ask the 100 Club any questions, or task them with tackling any issue, what would that be?

DC: With proposals imminent for some fundamental changes in gambling legislation, is it already too late for the UK industry to stand any chance of winning the PR battle presently being waged against it from all sides? If not, what can it effectively do to turn the tide of public and political opinion in its favour whilst there may still be a small amount of time to do so?