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The Gaming Intelligence HOT 50 – Responsible Gambling

12th February 2020 10:27 am GMT

There are some among us who believe the industry’s future will be shaped by how it responds to the responsible gambling challenge. The Hot 50 reflects this trend, with lawyers, regulators and industry advocates featuring heavily.

The role of the in-house lawyer has changed enormously over the past few years, as the best of them respond proactively to the responsible gambling challenges set for them by regulators and the attendant PR pressures of media and politicians.

Nobody has responded better than GVC Group legal director Michael Leadbeater, who arrived from William Hill in September 2018 and has ushered his company through a period of unprecedented growth and change. Our judges singled Leadbeater out as one of the industry’s leading in-house counsels.

Performing a similar task for his company is Playtech’s head of regulatory affairs and compliance, Ian Ince. Ince is a spectacular advocate for his company and the wider industry. Not afraid to speak truth to power, Ince has been a strong voice in the industry’s response to a series of challenges laid down by the UK Gambling Commission.

In doing so, he has radically reformed Playtech’s approach to responsible gambling. The world’s leading gaming software supplier took a big plunge when it acquired responsible gambling tool BetBuddy two years ago. Its CEO Simo Dragicevic has blossomed at the larger company, joining up product teams, Ince’s compliance team and his contacts in academia to help make Playtech’s products safer for players.

Dragicevic and fellow Hot 50 winner Phil Horne, chief executive officer at SG Gaming, have led the industry’s response to the UK Gambling Commission’s challenge to create an Industry Code for Games Design. The pair have marshalled efforts from Blueprint Gaming, Gamesys, Microgaming and more, and are expected to deliver the code by the end of March. It is quite some challenge but Dragicevic and Horne have embraced the test with gusto – and have reportedly impressed the regulator with their zest and innovation.

The Industry Code was first mooted by the Remote Gambling Authority (RGA), which embraced its land-based brothers and became the Betting and Gaming Council (BGC) during the past 12 months.

The BGC has recruited its first chief executive in the form of Michael Dugher, who joins from UK Music, where he has been chief executive since stepping down as a Labour party MP in 2017. Dugher was shadow secretary of state for culture, media and sport (the government department responsible for gambling) and is a close associate of Labour’s most vociferous anti-gambling campaigner Tom Watson. That relationship might well be tested. Watson left the House of Commons during 2019 but vowed to continue to fight for gambling reform.

Dugher will have to recruit a team with the wit and imagination to lift the industry’s representation to a whole new level, as the new UK government ponders how it will fulfil its election manifesto promise to revisit the Gambling Act.

Dugher could take a leaf out of the book of Mikel López de Torre, chairman of Spanish industry group Jdigital. López de Torre has played a crucial role in uniting the industry in Spain. Sensing the political mood, he introduced a responsible gambling and betting advertisement code in the country before the authorities enforced one.

While the UK Gambling Commission has raised the bar with its approach to responsible gambling, it is not a UK-specific phenomenon. The National Council on Problem Gambling executive director Keith Whyte is an unsung hero, pushing the responsible gambling agenda in the US further than anybody has done in the past. As the fervour around sports betting increases, his role is going to become more and more important.

Washington DC’s Office of Lottery and Gaming opened its sports betting licensing process in December with an innovative fast-track procedure for those already licensed in certain other jurisdictions. DC Lottery executive director Beth Bresnahan is one of the youngest and smartest regulators working in the US. The former executive director of the Massachusetts State Lottery also brings a wealth of experience from outside the industry. Her communications and media skills mean she is likely to become one of the industry’s most prominent figures.

Equally noteable is the current IAGR president and senior adviser of The Norwegian Gaming and Foundation Authority, Trude Felde, who will be an important figure as regulators increasingly look to cooperate across national boundaries.

The Gaming Intelligence HOT 50 2020 (read more)

The Gaming Intelligence HOT 50 2020 – Acquisition Specialists (read more)

The Gaming Intelligence HOT 50 2020 – Responsible Gambling

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