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I was in Washington earlier in the week, invited to speak at a gambling conference full of regulators. It would seem that not a lot has changed, in any respect.

My pitch was that I will be interested to learn whether US regulators learn from the mistakes of other regulators around the world. Regulation, I said, is often characterised by a lack of understanding about what actually happens and far too much weight being given to the public perception rather than the reality of the mechanics of the industry; and by a desire among legislators to tread a middle path for political reasons. It needs brave legislating to deals with the issues that need to be covered, without adding the superfluous window dressing that looks good politically but actually undermines the objective.

When asked for an example of that, I cited the UK’s advertising watershed: gambling adverts are not allowed before 9pm in order to limit the risk of children gambling online.

You can legitimately argue that you don’t want gambling adverts targeting housewives at 4 in the afternoon, but it is not on the basis of this moral dislike that the watershed exists. It exists specifically because of children, and on that basis, it is a total red-herring. During term time, children are more likely to be watching television after 9pm on a Saturday (X Factor finishes at 10) than they are at half past 2 on a Wednesday; and anyway the way to stop children gambling online is to require measures of age verification which prevent someone who is too young from accessing a site. If those measures are sufficient, then it makes no difference what time gambling is advertised, because the people who aren’t allowed to access it, can’t. I’d rather see more stringent requirements around things that make a difference, rather than governments introducing things that look good in the Daily Mail but achieve nothing.

The inevitable question followed: “if my 12-year-old son takes my credit card details and logs into a gambling site, how do operators stop him from betting? What can be done about that?”

Can you imagine someone asking this question at a conference of transport regulators: “What happens if my 12-year old son takes my car keys and drives my car? What can be done about that?” And who would the finger be pointed at? Would it be the fault of the car licensing authorities, the car manufacturer, or the insurance company?

The answer to the question, obviously, is none of the above: it is a failure on the part of the parent. So, too, in gambling. Leaving aside the fact that if your 12-year old son can steal your credit card and get online, one of the last things he is likely to do is start gambling, I just can’t see how any regulator thinks that his duty is to address issues like this as part of gambling law. Surely the regulator’s job starts and ends with regulating the product?



Posted in Betting industry, My articles, Regulation.

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2 Responses

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  1. Josh says

    You could easily replace the title ‘Washington’ with ‘Canberra’.

Continuing the Discussion

  1. ERP? NFI, to use a TLA | Mark Davies linked to this post on December 9, 2011

    […] Step forward the ERP – the European Regulatory Platform – which describes itself as a think-tank for doing just that. It launched this week, I gather. Wonderful, I hear you say – and I applaud your enthusiasm. Who knows?  They might even read stuff written by punters and others who know something about the market, and get some tips on what might make sense and what might not. […]

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