Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Senet group: promoting responsible gambling

The Senet Group, set up in September by four of Great Britain's biggest multi-channel gambling operators, is a new watchdog dedicated to promoting responsible gambling standards. Ron Finlay, its Chief Executive, explains its role.

 

Initially funded by William Hill, Ladbrokes, Coral and Paddy Power, membership of the Senet Group is now open to any company across the gambling industry. We aim to help members fulfil their commitment to responsible gambling and will hold them to account for compliance with codes of good practice.

Social responsibility

The Group has already committed to a series of measures in pursuit of social responsibility. From January, we will be running a major advertising campaign to help educate people on how to stay in control of their betting and keep it fun. All advertising from members will also include more prominent responsible gambling messages in a bid to further strengthen the 'stay in control' message.

Mindful of children and young people watching sport on TV, member companies have agreed not to advertise free bet and free money sign-up offers on TV before the 9pm 'watershed.' Alongside this, all advertising of gaming machines (sometimes referred to as FOBTs or Fixed Odds Betting Terminals) have been removed by members from shop windows. And 20% of shop window space is now to be dedicated to messages about responsible gambling and staying in control.

These voluntary advertising measures go beyond those required by Government and the regulator in Great Britain, the Gambling Commission. Senet Group members took this initiative in response to what they perceived as increasing public concerns over the tone of some gambling advertising, particularly from parents anxious about the possible impact on their children watching sports in the afternoon or early evening.

Governance

Modelled on the Portman Group, the self-regulatory body for the alcohol industry, the Senet Group will be chaired by an independent Standards Commissioner. Applications to become the Chair of Senet Group or one of its independent directors are now open until 21 November 2014 and details may be found at http://www.senetgroup-appointments.org.uk. Dame Janet Gaymer, former Commissioner for Public Appointments, has kindly agreed to oversee the recruitment process, which is being conducted transparently following the so-called 'Nolan Principles' of standards in public life. 

The wider Senet's membership, the more effective the Group will be. For industry operators concerned that Senet will be unduly concerned with the interests of its founding members, there is good news: the Group's constitution has not yet been finalised and there is a commitment to shape it to suit companies with different operating models, subject to its being able to fulfil its compliance function with due independence. The sanctions available to the Group for members found in breach of good practice will include 'naming and shaming' and fines.

Welcome

The Group's creation has been hailed as 'positive move' by politicians and critics of the gambling industry as a whole. UK Prime Minister, David Cameron, said he was "heartened that the industry (was) proactively introducing these measures," while Sajid Javid, Secretary of State at the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, said that it was "really good the industry is taking these initiatives."

The Gambling Commission was also positive about the new commitments, saying: "We welcome this initiative and look forward to it being translated into action. We hope it will gain traction across the industry more widely." Clive Efford, Shadow Minister for Sport, said the creation of a watchdog was a "welcome step," but it needed to cover the whole industry.

Future

Over the coming months, the Committee of Advertising Practice is expected to announce the results of its review into gambling advertising; and the Gambling Commission will be considering the results of its consultation on amendments to the social responsibility provisions in the licence conditions and codes of practice for gambling operators. In the longer term, changes in technology are likely to offer opportunities for product development and new marketing initiatives by gambling operators, while social attitudes towards gambling may also change, but are hard to predict.

The industry needs the public's confidence that it is striking the right balance between promoting an enjoyable leisure pursuit and doing its best to minimise potential harm, and the Senet Group has an important role to play. Membership will be a badge of pride. After all, as Patrick Kennedy, CEO of Paddy Power, said at Senet Group's launch: "Putting responsible gambling at the heart of our business is simply the right thing to do."

 

Ron Finlay
Chief Executive
Senet Group
ron.finlay@senetgroup.org.uk
 

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