iGF Breakfast Club: There’s a Wind of Change Blowing Across Gambling

Love it or loathe it, ready or not, there’s a wind of change blowing across the British gambling industry and in the words of the immortal song: “There ain’t no room for the hopeless sinner.”

That’s the acute message of media barrister and legal eagle John Battle, a man who wrote the book on law and compliance.

People get ready.

Get ready, most specifically, for the upcoming UK parliamentary White Paper–and certain new legislation–that will update Britain’s creaky 2005 Gambling Act and make the law fit-for-purpose in the era of the Internet and booming online gaming.

Battle, Head of Legal and Compliance at the ITN Media Group for over two decades, was the keynote speaker at iGF’s very first “Breakfast Club”, recently held in London’s silicon tech-hub of Shoreditch-Hoxton to explore future trends, challenges and solutions for the iGaming industry.

There’s nothing quite like a fresh, out-of-industry perspective, a new set of eyes, to bring insight and solutions to the serious business of responsible gambling, the most pressing issue of our day. And Battle, who is also Chair of the Media Lawyers Association, didn’t disappoint.

At the start, he reminded iGF Breakfast Club members–while giving added credence to his own keynote presence–that both the British Media and Gambling industries are regulated by the same government office, namely: the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.

“We have a lot of shared experiences, and shared challenges,” Battle told his audience, which was led by the event’s principal sponsor, Rasmus Kjaergaard, CEO of Denmark’s pathfinder Mindway AI.

“The media (like the gambling industry) must ensure the safeguarding of viewers (players), children and vulnerable people.

“Over the last 20-years we have had to embrace the reality of the Internet and the digital age,” said Battle, who earned his spurs as Group Legal Advisor to Associated Newspapers, publishers of the UK’s leading Daily Mail newspaper, between 1996-2001.

Embrace the change, work with—not against—the regulator was at the heart of Battle’s message, a clarion call that applies to operators and verticals everywhere and not just to those sited in the UK.

Unity and Standards

Internal standards are paramount, stressed Battle.

At ITN, with its daily audience of around 10 million people across all its news and current affairs platforms, prime emphasis was placed on accuracy, independence, impartiality, respect for the individual, acting in a professional way.

Gambling, like the media, “should have a culture of “referencing-up, training, self-analysis and how can you do things better,” he argued.

“The law is important and we must comply with it. We should continually ask ourselves: ‘Should we be doing this? Are we on the right path?’”

Unity is another tenet of Battle’s philosophy.

“Working together as an industry is far more powerful than working individually. Speak with one voice, speak together,” he urged.

“You are not going to avoid change. There’s going to be change. There has to be change. It’s often good and positive to find out what you agree on and not just argue about what you don’t like,” ended Battle.

As Mindway AI boss Kjaergaard summarised when talking about the key issue of safe and responsible gaming, the gambling industry needs to lead the conversation and not just be the negative focus of the conversation.

With Britain’s gambling industry on the cusp of profound and far-reaching regulatory change, what happens here, given this nation’s soft power and cultural leading-edge, matters for many, if not all, international iGaming markets.

The wisdom of progressive thought-leaders like Battle, Kjaergaard, Emma Blaylock of Pretty Technical and Betsson’s Roderick Spiteri Schillig, among many others who attended iGF’s Breakfast Club, is needed now more than ever.