So, like the Monolith in Arthur C Clark’s 2001 a Space Odyssey the UK Betting and Gaming Council has suddenly appeared on the UK gambling industry landscape and like the Hominids in the film we are now all running around wondering what it is and how it will shape our evolution…

Drawing together UK Betting shops, many land based UK casinos and almost all UK licensed on-line operators it will be run by a strong management team lead by the indomitable Brigid Simmonds and will have at its disposal a vast budget for member facilities, marketing and political lobbying. Of course the UK Gambling Commission will be in raptures as it moves them closer to ‘one stop shopping’ in terms of industry liaison and regulation. I am having a distinct sense of Déjà vu going right back to the early 2000s when there was the possibility of every small gaming operator being driven out of business by the potential arrival of huge ‘Gaming Sheds’ being proposed by a small number of both foreign and domestic operators. Of course we know what happened to them…

Is this a good thing? Hard to say really, it was probably inevitable as we continue to see the confluence of digital gaming across many forms of delivery platform and it does of course bring into stark relief the future direction of the remaining land based Trade Associations, namely Bacta, the Bingo Association and Balppa.

In my opinion the elephant in the room has rapidly become, whether the land based, ‘low stake/high volume’ associations should now consider marshalling their resources and their expertise and come together as either one new organisation, or if that idea is too radical for the three Association CEOs to contemplate (at present) then to at least start to work much more closely in a semi-formal ‘Low Stake Alliance’. This Alliance would ensure that there are sufficient resources, a high enough profile (the ‘LSA’) and all round clout to counter balance the Betting and Gaming Council in discussions with both politicians and regulators and to ensure that those discussions don’t become too one sided in favour of harder gambling at the expense of those living and working at the softer end of the spectrum, the ‘Gaming Entertainment’ business where Fun really does mean Fun. Perhaps the Chairmen of all three Associations need to book a table for lunch?

I do realise that of the three Associations one (Bacta) is much better funded (and because of that better resourced) than the other two and that may mean that some members are reticent about joining forces with slightly less well-resourced organisations but I sincerely believe that there are very obvious synergies that would mean that the three organisations together would have considerable leverage and could create a much needed balance with the Betting and Gaming Council.

In the words of my late History master, ‘discuss’.

Nick Harding