The seventh annual Remote Gambling Association (RGA) Annual General Meeting took place today at IET Savoy Place in London. Morning coffee greeted the 100+ delegates including RGA members, industry media, speakers and policy makers. After the obligatory networking session, delegates sat down for 90 minutes of presentations that were followed by a networking lunch with wine, thank you very much RGA.
To provide some background, the RGA is currently 30 members strong, all of which are online gambling companies who hold a gambling license in Europe and comply with the RGA’s Social Responsibility Code. As the largest trade organization for the online gambling industry, the RGA strives to provide one unified voice to regulators, policy makers and other decision makers while promoting a regulated environment for the industry.
John Coates, Chairman of the RGA and Joint Chief Executive of Bet365, kicked off the meeting today and introduced all the speakers, the first being Philip Graf CBE, Chairman of the British Gambling Commission.
Graf’s speech started and ended with the importance of good communication between regulators and operators for a multitude of reasons, but especially because there must be a mutual understanding of the pressure on both sides in order to work together properly. He also added that there must be an open dialogue and sharing of information between jurisdictions in order to move forward in this fragmented environment.
In between, Graf stated that some of the largest challenges faced by the British Gambling Commission include the impact of new technology, mobile gaming developments, how to handle the poker network challenge and how to manage player funds.
Graf was unable to shed any light on timeframe of the upcoming UK regulatory changes but he did confirm that the British Gambling Commission does not want anyone to have to duplicate efforts nor will licensees be required to set up offices and employees in the UK.
One of the final points made by Graf was that its unlikely that we’ll ever see a mutual recognized gaming license across the EU but that the EC will likely play a role in facilitating cooperation between member states.
On the other hand, in the next presentation, UK MEP Ashley Fox suggested that member states should focus on a single market for consumer protection so they can demonstrate its success to the EC and perhaps facilitate a more single market in the future. Fox also emphasized that these are very uncertain times in the EU (ie struggling to keep the Euro together) so its essential for operators to keep the pressure on the EC to release something better than the “feeble” Green Papers which actually asked more questions than provided answers.
Following Fox’s presentation, the adorable (and French!) Pâquerette Girard Zappelli, Secretary of the IOC Ethics Commission, promised delegates that the IOC will coordinate with the Gambling Commission to ensure that Olympics participants do not gamble on the games and break any rules. The next IOC meeting regarding the Olympics takes place February 2012 and there will be further updates at that time.
The true highlight from the day (minus the wine with lunch, of course) was Wes Himes update on EU Developments, a somewhat dull topic that Himes presented in a highly entertaining fashion. As in, he explained the current EU situation to the tune of the festive poem, “’Twas the night before Christmas”, complete with a power point presentation and tribute to “Saint Clive” at the end.
Before breaking for lunch, RGA CEO “Saint Clive” Hawkswood delivered his annual review and made it quite clear that we must avoid “death by regulation” and keep the lines of communication open between jurisdictions, particularly when it comes to tech standards, social standards and information sharing. He explained that the focus appears to be on member states at present but this is because change at the member states level is quicker and easier than at the EU level.
Just before sign off, Hawkswood thanked the gaming industry for contributing to The Great Foundation, he thanked John Coates for all his hard work behind the scenes, he thanked his members and staff and he congratulated “the American in Brussels” Wes Himes for his flashy new second job as a stand up comedian.
For more information on the RGA and the fine work that they do, please visit www.rga.eu.com. For more information on how you can donate to The Great Foundation, please visit www.thegreatfoundation.org.uk.