RAIS BUSOM, an exclusive article for INFOPLAY:

 "Limiting legal gambling is the best way to invest in crime"

Rais Busom, one of our great values and thinkers in the global gaming industry publishes an article for all our readers. He takes as a starting point the situation that exists in the United Kingdom and relates various restrictive events that are spreading in European legislation.

Populism is at ease and Rais Busom analyzes the limitations to legal gaming, something also criticized in a recent letter from GVC’s CEO, where he warned about a lobby against the industry.

We recommend these readings to all of you, including the new head of the General Directorate for the Regulation of Gambling, Mikel Arana, in order to enrich diatribes and invite him to reflect.

Game of Thrones in the UK

Rais Busom

When in UK the editorials of such opposing media as The Guardian and Daily Mail say the same thing, it means that stars are aligned an eclipse will soon take place. That's what's going to happen in the Gaming Industry.

A recent extensive all-party parliamentary Report on the problems of gambling, entitled "Report from the Gambling Related Harm All Party Parliamentary Group Online Gambling Harm Inquiry", has achieved a rare social consensus on the harm of gambling activity. In the Report's conclusions, it recommends not only a ban on advertising and all types of promotions, but also stop the management of VIPs, and even a ban on products such as live betting or intervention in how gambling products should be designed in relation to speed.

A few days ago, GVC CEO Kenneth Alexander's statements surprised everyone. In an honest way, he recognized the good disposition of the sector to improve in everything that supposes an improvement of the responsible gaming, but he denounced the existence of an international lobby dedicated to impose some prohibitions, that not regulations, supposedly related to the health of the players, but in reality more linked with the goal to satisfy sectors of the population that are against gambling due exclusively to beliefs and not to factual evidences.

Actually the most recent report by the Gambling Commission, "Covid-19 and its impact on gambling - what we know so far [Updated July 2020]", acknowledges that 73% of active players did not increase their gambling activity in time or money. In fact the reduction in gambling activity during the lockdown of the pandemic has been reduced up to 70%.

Julian Buhagiar of RB Capital has also come to the fore in the debate, stating that if the recommendations of the parliamentary Report are successful, it will mean a drastic reduction in revenue and profits, massive layoffs, and the massive growth of illegal gambling.

These partial bans such as an end to online advertising, sponsorship, promotions, or VIP management according to Alexander will only contribute to the increase in illegal gambling, which is currently extremely low in the UK. As we all know, illegal gambling is highly irresponsible and undercapitalised the State because it doesn't pay taxes.

Illegal gambling is rampant even in the most unsuspected countries such as the Islamic Republic of Iran where despite a ban on all forms of gambling, there is gambled every year 100 million USD. Although the government is making huge efforts to fight illegal gambling -it has recently closed 61 sites-, gambling continues to grow through new channels that are very difficult to prosecute. Iran is one of the countries in the world with more Telegram users, precisely 50 million. Telegram, although it has only 400 million users, has nothing to do with a leading service like Whatsapp, which already has 2 billion. Telegram is owned by a Russian company, transactions are secure and not massively intercepted by the Western secret services. Telegram, unlike Whatsapp, allows all kinds of applications to be made by any developer. There are dozens of payment systems even with support for crypto currencies, there are worldwide advertising networks, and of course, there are all kinds of gaming applications, more or less private. Telegram gaming channels are part of the private communications between people, which makes it difficult to detect and stop them. There are applications and game channels made for one person only and don't appear in any marketplace.

There are other types of illegal games. There are cash poker games for semi-professional players, which are played on mobile applications only available by invitation, where apparently the game is played without money and the payments are given in other completely independent applications. There are also many games apparently for fun -without money-, whose deposits and withdrawals are made by agents -a kind of lenders- who are on the street, anywhere, in any environment. Some of them, use payment services like an urgent courier, same a pizza men on motorcycles, to pay the best players.

It is really complex from a legal and technical perspective to stop such activities, no matter how many websites are closed. The only way to convince a player to play on a legal site is to make it attractive, reliable and well known. Activities, impossible without promotions, without advertising and without the guarantee of a State.

The seriousness of the problem of illegal gambling is also that not only are the owners unreliable, probably they in the hands of the underworld itself, but it generates also other types of crime such as money laundering. Limiting legal gambling is the best way to invest in crime.

The only chance for the British gambling sector, the vanguard of the global industry, is to try to survive facing the coming tsunami of bans doing mergers between large groups and acquisitions of smaller operators that have some competitive advantage. The rest, both small operators and land based operators, will have a hard time. Alexander also rightly points out that it will be important to communicate to the public the achievements made at responsible gaming. In the United Kingdom attempts are being made to turn gambling into a public health problem equivalent to legal drugs. The number of people affected by problem gambling is 2.7% (1.4 million), which compared to the ravages of alcohol (1.1 million hospitalised and 24,000 deaths per year) or tobacco (78,000 deaths per year) still gives it a significant positive gap.

Troubled times lie ahead for the Brexit. In short, we do not know what this international lobby is that Alexander mentioned. In the end some conspirators will think that it’s Soros and Gates fault. Like everything else. Time will tell us.
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