When Gala Coral chief executive Carl Leaver was interviewing for a new director of corporate affairs he met Fiona Thorne. She told him that she would not take the job unless the operator was serious about responsible gambling.

The UK bookmaking industry was under fire from the media and politicians whipping up a moral panic over the addictiveness of fixedodds betting terminals. Leaver didn’t need much convincing. He knew what was at stake and knew he’d found the right person for the job.

Gala Coral’s responsible gambling websites are more prominent and more detailed than almost any other operator’s. They provide a real guide for players in language that is not condescending. Thought has gone into these websites. They are not just ticking boxes.

Gala Coral has been a key figure in setting up the industry watchdog The Senet Group and Thorne was one of two industry representatives sitting on the board. As Thorne will tell you, it is essential that the industry pulls in the same direction, as an individual company’s best efforts will be useless if a customer just uses a competitor.

For all these reasons, Gala Coral is a deserved winner. But Thorne has pushed Gala Coral even further forward on this issue. Her decision to invite BBC cameras into the company’s shops and head office was bold, risky and, ultimately, inspired genius.

The industry needs proactive operators like Gala Coral. The FOBT furore may have passed for now but gambling outrage will never be far away. If Leaver, Thorne and their colleagues continue in the direction they are moving then outrage will be much harder to justify. Gala Coral’s competitors should be cheering.

Gaming Intelligence Awards 2016

Sports Betting Operator of the Year: bet365

Poker Operator of the Year: PokerStars

Bingo Operator of the Year: Gala Coral

Social Casino Operator of the Year: Playtika

Casino Operator of the Year: LeoVegas

Lottery Operator of the Year: Veikkaus

Fantasy Sports Operator of the Year: FanDuel

Poker Supplier of the Year: Playtech

Fantasy Sports Supplier of the Year: DraftDay

Sports Betting Supplier of the Year: Betradar

Casino Supplier of the Year: NetEnt

Bingo Supplier of the Year: Playtech

Lottery Supplier of the Year: Scientific Games

One to Watch Award: EveryMatrix

Socially Responsible Operator of the Year: Gala Coral

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