PRESIDENT’S COMMENTS - PAUL NEWSON

PRESIDENT’S COMMENTS - PAUL NEWSON

By IAGR Media

Unprecedented and extraordinary times may be overused terms recently, but what other way do we describe the astonishing upheaval in our professional and personal lives arising from the public health and economic consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic and associated mitigation response? The extraordinary selflessness and courage of our healthcare professionals and other frontline staff, risking their own safety and enduring hardship to save lives and help keep communities safe, merits much thanks from each of us and perhaps for many, greater recognition going forward.

While the gambling sector is often subject to criticism, and even universally maligned by some more extreme commentators, the sudden industry shutdown has revealed its human face, its enormous contribution to jobs and the economy and the devastating toll on livelihoods and social connection where employment abruptly ends and venues close.

I think sans any hyperbole the challenges and abrupt changes thrust upon business and the community are unlike anything we have experienced in our lifetimes. It seems unlikely that the new paradigm of social distancing will disappear anytime soon and the implications for regulators and industry are not insignificant. But with challenge and adversity comes rich opportunity. Where there may have been inertia to drive innovation or adopt rapidly evolving technology to bolster effective and efficient regulation or facilitate responsible industry development, perhaps the disruption from the pandemic is the impetus needed to spark necessary momentum.

I can say emphatically what isn’t needed is failure of leadership. Operators avoiding accountability and sheeting blame for ill-considered decision-making or regulatory failures to staff working remotely can only undermine regulatory confidence and corrode industry integrity. I’m referring to an article in the Sydney Morning Herald about operator Sportsbet, blaming staff working from home for its betting product on the opening and closing price of the Australian Securities Exchange. Sportsbet also asserted it had previously received approval to issue markets on stock market indices from the Northern Territory Racing Commission. Notably most corporate bookmakers operating in Australia are licensed in the Northern Territory, possibly because its taxation arrangements, licensing framework and supervisory approach are perceived as more liberal. Irrespective, industry needs leadership that demonstrates accountability for deficiencies in conduct, governance or culture and better recognises its place and connection with community.   

I must say I was staggered at the overwhelming interest to speak at IAGR2020 Boston. We have prepared a compelling program which we are publishing now and it's the first time we will have both a plenary and separate streams to best accommodate the abundance of topics and speakers, however, it does mean many interested speakers will miss out on this occassion. For more details on IAGR2020 visit our dedicated website at iagr2020.com.

The IAGR Board has been carefully monitoring COVID-19 developments and public health advice and its likely implications for travel and conferences in 2020. Our current assessment is sobering. With social distancing likely to persist for many months, if not until a vaccine is approved and produced at scale, and some experts publicly doubting international travel will resume in any substantial way until 2021, we must now hasten our cautious assessment of the viability of conducting a conference in 2020. Trustees will be considering this pressing matter and resolving a way forward at our board meeting next week.

Progress of our strategic planning has been interrupted, however, I wanted to flag a couple of items to stimulate thinking and discussion prior to our General Meeting in September. Firstly, we have been grappling with the merits of introducing sponsorship to IAGR's conference and IAGR more generally. Like many organisations we must continue to challenge our thinking and approach and look for ways to deliver compelling events and value for members.

To achieve this, and extend our reach and impact, we need to build our membership base and identify new revenue opportunities. One avenue to support building IAGR’s offer and capability is to introduce sponsorship. IAGR Vice President, Mabutho Zwane has led the development of a draft sponsorship policy that is now open for review and comment. Please take the time to carefully review this draft policy and contribute your thoughts and ideas on how we could best approach sponsorship to access the additional funding while safeguarding IAGR’s independence and integrity.

Secondly, I would appreciate your consideration and feedback on a proposal to market IAGR membership to a wider audience and actively recruit additional members. IAGR’s Bylaws provide for five membership types, however, we focus principally on Jurisdictional members and Ordinary (individual) members are largely ancillary:

o   Jurisdictional (includes 5 Ordinary members).

o   Ordinary - largely ancillary.

o   Associate – inactive, no fee structure attached.

o   Reciprocal – nonrevenue generating.

o   Honorary – nonrevenue generating.

The proposal is to activate the existing Associate membership type by establishing a tiered membership fee and actively recruiting to this membership type. The Bylaws provide that Associate membership is open to former regulators and entities and individuals within, or affiliated with, the gaming industry as approved by the Board.

The particulars of the fee structure would need to be developed; however, we are most interested in views about enlivening this membership type, which is available now, but appears to have been dormant since IAGR’s independence.

Finally, due to difficulties arising from COVID-19, the gambling regulatory education course to be conducted by expert faculty from the International Center for Gaming Regulation in Sydney, coinciding with the Australasian Gaming Expo, has been postponed until 2021. The prestigious 5-day program builds on the highly successful 2019 course attended by over 50 Australian and international regulators. More details about Regulating The Game are available here.

Please send any submissions on these policy matters to iagr@iagr.org and feel free to contact me to discuss.

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