Andrew Rhodes has provided details on how the UK Gambling Commission will be implementing the government’s white paper for the UK gambling industry once the final consultation phase has been completed.

The CEO of the UKGC gave an important timeline to delegates that attended his fireside chat with Licensing Expert David Clifton on day one of the CasinoBeats Summit in Malta, estimating that it will take until mid-July for the first tranche of consultations to be completed.

Admitting that he “underestimated how politically conflicted gambling would be”, Rhodes spoke about his time with the commission so far since taking over the Chief Executive position a year ago and his past as an officer of the Civil Service.

“In my previous job as Director of the DWP, I was in charge of handling the UK’s welfare state operations, and that is very political and toxic to deal with,” he said.

“I remember thinking, I didn’t think I’d ever do a job as controversial as welfare and then moved into the gambling regulation, and I soon realised just how wrong I was because it is by far more conflicted than anything that I ever thought I would experience again.”

Rhodes noted that he stepped into the UKGC CEO role as the UK gambling industry was in the middle of a debate over the direction of reform and regulation.

Despite the delays in the publication of the white paper and the changes to which minister would be tasked with the review, Rhodes noted that he is always welcoming to any thoughts regarding the challenges the industry faces. 

The CEO stated: “My view is that to get good regulatory outcomes, you’ve got to have good relationships, good cooperation with the industry.

“We are the regulator, and realise people have opposing views, but you don’t have to have an adversarial relationship. The thing I set out in November last year was that I wanted the industry to demonstrate its compliance at the earliest opportunity.

“So if there is an issue, we can work together and correct it as quickly as possible… that should mean that we all see less necessity for enforcement cases.”

During the review’s proceedings, Rhodes noted his disappointment at engaging in Twitter discourse, which led to abuse from anonymous users. 

“You’re taking bribes and you know, you’re just this and that, and they are swearing abuse and all of that stuff, it’s just so counterproductive and offers nothing,” he said.

Examining the white paper, Clifton questioned Rhodes on what the review had resolved following two years of discussion, as the industry sees “no sufficient details, no firm proposals to do anything, no immediate changes –  just that the government will undertake a series of consultations this summer…and we are almost in summer”.

Rhodes responded: “It’s worth remembering what a white paper is. It’s no more than the government’s policy direction.

“I read articles of commentators saying it’s a new Bill…it really isn’t legislation. I think probably the time from the flash-to-bang of the original call for evidence through to the publication probably didn’t help in terms of people’s responses.

“I think the white paper is well-balanced in its context. Naturally, when it’s something like a Gambling Act review or any other piece of important legislation it becomes a complicated scenario, and one that builds a huge amount of expectation. And that can’t be lived up to.”

Regarding the consultation phase, Rhodes noted the government’s top concern is “whether people are spending too much money on gambling and therefore being harmed…is it too easy to lose money”.

The CEO also indicated that an issue for the UKGC will be timescales, as there is no formative legislation assigned to its recommendations. The industry will continue to ask questions throughout the summer.

“At present, there are 62 work streams at the commission working on gambling reforms. Normally, that will probably be a piece of legislation.

“What you’ve got in reality is delivering all of those things and some of them through secondary legislation by DCMS, a lot of it by the commission through upcoming LCCP changes – we have to consult legal requirements to make changes and that will take time.”

Rhodes added: “The Gambling white paper will be the Commission’s defining policy for the next three years from where we are today to the evaluation of what we changed. 

“As I’ve said to the leadership of operators, if there is something that is not in the white paper that you wanted, we are not going to engage with them for some time, probably years, because what we don’t want to do is distract ourselves.

“So we’ve got an enlarged team working on the consultations of specialists in this area. We’ve got the phase in the secrecy and a plan to deliver everything in the first couple of months. It’s not possible for anyone to do that, so we pour quite a lot of resources in. Sequencing is key, which is how you do this.” 

When asked for an estimated delivery date for the conclusions of consultations, Rhodes provided a mid-July timeline for the first set of consultations.

“The civil service in Britain typically defines the summer as anywhere up to the end of November. We’re talking about around mid-July for the first tranche of consultations, as we want to get through to the bigger items and prioritise them.”