IBAS Managing Director Richard Hayler has shared his thoughts with gambling media service SBC News about the growing calls for the creation of a gambling ombudsman.
You can read the full article HERE.
With a view to making progress now, rather than leaving the issues unaddressed prior to the completion of the government's review of gambling legislation, Hayler says:
In the end it will be for government to decide, as part of its review, what redress system is needed for the gambling sector. We are aware though that this is only the start of the process. There is a great weight of significant legal and ethical questions to explore in order to transform an idea into an effective, functioning service. How do we turn ideas and theories into something practically achievable?
We see no reason why IBAS should not begin considering those questions. If the decision is made that a different approach or new body is needed, we’ll hand over our work to those charged with that future responsibility. Hopefully we will have given it at least something of a head start. We will look to address some of the many difficult questions we have heard asked or which we have asked of lawyers, regulators or consumers without receiving the emphatic guidance we might have wished for.
Some of those questions - not specifically referred to in the article - which we have either asked ourselves or heard others ask and that we will look to address, include:
To what extent is the amount of time and money we spend gambling our choice, and to what extent is it the responsibility of the company accepting our custom? Is the answer different for different consumers and different products? How do we identify those differences?
What does a business need to do to check that gambling is affordable and when/how often does it need to do it? What if a consumer claims or provides apparent evidence that the gambling is affordable but later reveals that it never was? Should the company be responsible for verifying claims of this nature and if so to what extent?
Do we accept the principle of compensation for failures of responsibility by businesses towards their customers? Against what standard should this be judged? On what do we base or calculate appropriate levels of compensation?
When considering the concept of ‘responsible gambling’ should we be judging responsibility based on just the amount of money that a person has gambled/been allowed to gamble, or the time they have spent/been allowed to spend too?
If compensation is found to be due, is it appropriate and safe to pay it to someone who may be struggling to control their gambling? Is it fair and/or right to explore payment of compensation to third parties?
What if someone gets into unmanageable debt and a cycle of short-term borrowing by losing £100, say, to each of 20 different businesses? Who or what should be the focus of that complaint? In this respect and in others, to what extent is the financial services industry a part of the problem and solution?
What is the fairest thing to do when someone is able to gamble despite being self-excluded? Is the fair thing the same as the right thing?
Do gambling businesses have any legal or moral responsibility to the families or other financial dependents of their customers?
What powers does an ombudsman need to obtain all of the evidence it will need to make informed decisions?
What types of complaint might an ombudsman not be able to consider? Can/should an ombudsman investigate claims that online gambling was conducted by someone other than the account holder, without their permission? Can/should an ombudsman look into arguments that medicines or treatments have caused someone to gamble erratically? What role should healthcare systems have in helping to safeguard against the latter?
These questions may only touch the surface. They will inevitably lead to others. There are more, not listed here, some of which we have been asking of consumers, operators and regulators in different circumstances. We don’t promise to reach conclusions on every subject, but we believe that it is in everyone’s interest to begin exploring them now and in the coming weeks we will be looking for input from anyone with a considered interest and a will to make practical progress.