The industry must get on the front foot and stop being reactive to regulatory change, asserts Paul Foster, CEO of the Gibraltar Betting and Gaming Association.

These comments come in the immediate aftermath of the trade association, which represents online gaming operators that have been issued a remote licence in Gibraltar, completing the set-up, formation and funding of the Gibraltar Gambling Care Foundation as a registered charity.

Initially detailed towards the start of the month, Foster sits down with CasinoBeats to delve a little deeper into what prompted the establishment of the GGCF: “Responsibility is at the centre of Gambling today and as a jurisdiction, Gibraltar, wanted to drive the responsibility agenda and make a real difference. 

“Given there is a concentration of gambling companies and therefore related data, the opportunity to work with an independent body at the University of Gibraltar was a clear opportunity. 

“However, in order for the open-source evidence and analysis from the University to be acceptable on the global stage, it was necessary to create an independent Foundation to collect associated monies from the industry and distribute them to the University and other approved establishments, so that there could be no influence from the Gambling Companies on the research which will drive integrity of data.”

“…goals are to reduce gambling related harm, encourage independent research and drive player protection”

The GGCF will be operated independently from the GBGA under the support and guidance of councillors Stephen Reyes and Selvan Soobiah, and will initially predominantly fund research that will take place at the Centre of Excellence in Responsible Gaming that is being set up by the University of Gibraltar. 

Having currently raised over £2.5m from Gibraltar gaming companies to fund the setting up of the CERG and fund it for an initial three year period, Foster moves to touch upon the initial goals of the Foundation and how these could evolve over time: “The initial goals are to reduce gambling related harm, encourage independent research and drive player protection,” he says. 

“This will be achieved through making grants to recognised and approved establishments which can achieve these goals. The primary initial establishment is the Centre of Excellence in Responsible Gaming at the University of Gibraltar where a £2m+ grant has been approved to fund the first three years of research. 

“We expect that as the Centre of Excellence becomes more established that they will drive further research which will be innovative and cutting edge and that this will be supported as well. The foundation will also look to support responsibility through other grants as the landscape evolves both in, and outside of Gibraltar.”

Upon unveiling news of the establishment of the GGCF, Nigel Birrell, GBGA chairman, emphasised that “this is a pivotal step change for all Gibraltar licensed operators and the jurisdiction as a whole”.

With this in mind, Foster continued by elaborating on exactly why this is so: “Responsibility has always been at the centre of the Gibraltar licensing regime. In most countries the regulator or Gambling Act will require the establishment of bodies to promote responsibility, research, education and training. 

The GBGA members are the driving force and will continue to be”

“In Gibraltar, it has been the operators who have taken the lead with the support of Her Majesty’s Government of Gibraltar and the gambling regulator to fund through the foundation the establishment of a Centre of Excellence in Responsible Gaming. This means having cutting edge research and support at the heart of the industry which will drive knowledge and therefore better player protection across the industry.”

Among the numerous strategic ambitions touched upon throughout, industry support has been critical thus far, and will continue to be so moving forward for the GGCF. But how wide ranging has the support received been? And how key was this in the initial set-up?

“The GBGA represents the industry in Gibraltar and this initiative has been driven by our members who have committed substantial support in both a financial sense and the time and energy of company employees in supporting it,” it is added.

“We are also seeing interest and support in the Foundation from non-Gibraltar licensed companies, and we welcome all offers of support and are therefore open to discussions. 

“The GBGA members are the driving force and will continue to be at least during the early days of the project, however we hope through collaboration across multiple markets that we can draw further support. 

“The university are backing this by making their research open source to all and the independent charitable status of the Foundation should help all companies to donate.”

The industry has to get on the front foot and stop being reactive to regulatory change”

The foundation of the scheme comes as the industry finds itself under an ever increasing spotlight across many regions, to conclude Foster touched upon what more can be done to demonstrate a commitment to minimising gambling related harm.

“The industry has to get on the front foot and stop being reactive to regulatory change. The industry knows its customers better than any regulator or non-governmental agency and because of this they are best placed to make a difference and drive the responsible agenda,” he explains.

“We would recommend the formation of strong, focused industry bodies across all jurisdictions which can pull companies together to explore and support responsibility at the centre of the industry. Companies on their own, will always have limited resources to explore the options to support customers and prevent gambling related harm. 

“When companies work together collaboratively and share these resources there is the opportunity for real change. The GBGA has become a blueprint for how to make change happen, and we welcome any industry body who would like to know more to contact us so that we can share our learning on how collaboration, determination and honesty can drive real change.”