Godzilla v. King Kong, Big Beasts Dugher and Lawson Face Off In The iGaming Jungle

Godzilla versus King Kong, there’s a metaphorical 500lb gorilla in the iGaming jungle.

“Lots of hysterical nonsense is claimed about betting & football, assertions not based on facts/evidence, usually by anti-gambling prohibitionists who just want to ban stuff + some snobby newspaper commentators who look down their noses at betting.”

So tweeted this week former Labour Party MP, one-time acolyte of ex-Prime Minister Gordon Brown and current supremo of the gambling industry’s representative Betting and Gaming Council (BGC) Michael Dugher.

It couldn’t, perchance, have been directed at Nigel Lawson, once nobel Chancellor of Mrs Thatcher’s Exchequer, and probably better known these days as the father of cooking guru Nigella, who launched a swingeing attack on gambling harms–most specifically the “incestuous” relationship between betting and football sponsorship–in his column in the hallowed Sunday Times.

Lord Lawson was keen to point out that an estimated 450 Britons, most of them young men, commit suicide each year because of extreme addiction to gambling — and highlight the combined £7.1 million fine (US$8.71m/€8.08m) recently imposed on the Kindred Group’s 32Red and Unibet verticals by the UK’s regulatory Gambling Commission (GC).

Mr Dugher, who, as a former Shadow Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, before the nomenclature “Digital” was added in 2017, could arguably be termed a gamekeeper turned poacher, responds in time-honoured fashion by reminding all and sundry that the UK gambling industry employs 110,000 people, generates £7.1 billion in economic activity and pays £4.2 billion in tax (US$5.15bn/€4.78bn).

Short of beating one’s chest and grimacing, it’s difficult to argue that two wrongs, or in this case three wrongs, make a right.

Why should gambling, for example, be singled out for special opprobrium when it can be convincingly argued that alcohol and tobacco–or perhaps brandy and Cuban cigars for Lord Lawson and his fellow gambling hater Sir Iain Duncan Smith–are infinitely worse for physical and mental health – not to mention drug and narcotics abuse, obesity, violence against women, et al.

Of course, this latest face-off between these political big beasts is taking place against a fevered backdrop, and in anticipation of the hotly-awaited Gambling Review of Britain’s now-antiquated 2005 Gambling Act.

Point and Counter-point

While the industry waits and waits and the game of political chairs, of ever-revolving Conservative party administrations, continues, the gambling metasphere, increasingly, is driving reform itself.

The GC £7.1 million sanction of Kindred speaks as much; while Dugher is keen to point up the impressive impact of the last BGC-sponsored “Safer Gambling Week” and gambling Omnichannel Entain, for example, has donated some £40 million (US$49.12m/€45.53m), and counting, to the betting charity GambleAware.

From buying a lottery ticket, playing bingo, visiting a casino, betting online or having a wager on football, horse racing and other sports, an estimated 22.5 million UK adults enjoy a bet each month.

Anti-gambling campaigners claim that around five per cent of punters suffer from problems of serious addiction. The industry argues that this is a gross exaggeration and that levels of acute addiction have, if anything, fallen from 0.3 percent of gamblers to 0.2 percent.

British betting boosters, moreover, embrace the prospect of reform and modernisation to keep up with the fast-moving pace of iGaming, the swirling data revolution and, now, AI.

All with one vital proviso: That change is not so violent as to crash punters on to the rocks of bad market gambling.

“Millions of customers now use safer gambling tools, including deposit limits and time outs,” BGC boss Dugher told iGamingFuture.

“This is a pillar of the regulated betting and gaming industry and is in marked contrast to the unsafe, unregulated and growing online gambling [bad] market, which has none of the safeguards strictly employed by BGC members.”

With the White Paper on reform of the 2005 Gambling Act now set for publication on April 17, the iGaming’s future journey will be revealed soon enough.

Exciting times lie ahead.

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