Two of the UK’s largest gambling bodies – the Remote Gambling Association (RGA) and the Association of British Bookmakers (ABB) are, soon, expected to announce their intention to merge together.
Industry-insiders say the new organization is set to be called ‘NEWCO’, and the merger is expected to be officially confirmed by the end of this week.
The Guardian recently reported the merger was moving forward, and the popular British paper expects the merger to be confirmed by the 1st of March, 2019. According to industry insiders, NEWCO has been in the pipeline for quite some time, and it’s said to be “the working title for a new industry body representing the gambling sector, replacing the Remote Gambling Association and the Association of British Bookmakers.”
The Guardian reported that executive job search agency – Ellwood Atfield – has placed a job advertisement on its website for a ‘chairperson to head NEWCO’. According to the job description, the successful candidate will “lead what will be the largest and most prominent organization representing the gambling industry. The chair will build and maintain trust in the gambling industry, both within the industry itself and with external stakeholders.”
NEWCO Is Set To Become a Lobbying Group
Many spokespeople in the betting industry feel as though they’re being unfairly targeted – especially by the UK government. 2018 was an extraordinarily difficult year for the UK’s gambling sector, as the government finally decided to slash the maximum stakes on Fixed Odds Betting Terminals (FOBTs) from £100 to just £2 per spin. Experts say this could cause as many as 40% of the UK’s bookmaker shops to close down – putting, potentially, thousands of out of work.
Both the RGA and the ABB were extremely opposed to the move – and it’s thought that the recent merger could be an attempt to strengthen their lobbying power with the UK’s government.
Matt Zarb-Cousin – an anti-FOBT campaigner, and vocal spokesperson against gambling machines, said: “This illustrates how discredited the ABB in particular are with policymakers and with government, given the way they handled the issue of FOBTs and their failure to acknowledge any kind of problem, which has led to resistance to any meaningful compromise.
“Ultimately, the £2 stake was enacted, their worst-case scenario, so it’s no surprise they’re looking for a new body to lead on this.”
Also interesting, is that the merge – last year – was called ‘unlikely’ by the RGA’s former chief executive, Clive Hawkswood. As bookmakers prepare to see a huge decline in revenue, it’s clear that NEWCO is likely being seen as a ‘last-ditch’ attempt by UK gambling firms to lobby the government into finding a better middle-ground. Perhaps, for example, setting the maximum stakes on FOBTs ast £20 – a fair compromise.
The Guardian reports:
The advert is for a chairman and chief executive to shape the new body, which is called Newco at this stage. The advert says it will be “the largest and most prominent organisation representing the gambling industry”.
According to recruitment pages for both positions, candidates should be able to show that they have a “track record of successfully influencing the political and lobbying process within Westminster, Whitehall and ideally Brussels”.
Applicants are also asked to display “an established network within the national and international political and media arena, with experience of dealing with the media on politically sensitive topics”.
How NEWCO performs – and whether or not it will hold any success in helping bookmakers achieve a more prominent stake in gambling on the UK’s high streets remains to be seen. One thing, however is clear; gambling bodies in the UK are worried – and once the changes are brought in, it’s going to be interesting to see how companies adapt.