The RGA and ABB Are Discussing a Merger to Create a New Trade Body



Staff member
May 3, 2008
In light of the increased remote gambling restrictions in the UK gambling market, the representative bodies for the online gambling operators Remote Gambling Association and Association of British Bookmakers discuss a merger in order to create a new trade body.

The working title of the new trade body is NEWCO, which will be the most prominent and largest organisation that represents the gambling industry. Ellwood Atfield, the communications and recruitment agency, has been selected to run the employment advertisements for Chief Executive and Chair of NEWCO. The ad details that NEWCO will replace the Association of British Bookmakers and the Remote Gambling Association.

The News for the Merger

Online gambling operators are about to set up a new, special trade body that will represent the industry and will act as a lobby group in this desperate time when lawmakers consider tougher regulations of the UK’s gambling sector.

There have been rumours on this merger for quite some time now, ever since the regulators first mentioned the crackdown over FOBTs. The merger of the Remote Gambling Association and the Association of British Bookmakers, as confirmed by a source close to the industry, was absolutely imminent, due to issues related to taxation and responsible gambling rule changes. As the senior industry source said, with all of these issues with the media, the tax and the responsible gambling problems, it was time for the gambling operator’s representatives to get lined up a little bit better.

The news for the reshuffle of the representative bodies was crucial at a time when the industry faces a threat of brand new imposed regulatory restrictions and changes. This was a result of the public concern about the operator’s behaviour in the gambling market and their increasing influence on responsible gambling. The UK lawmakers and regulators voiced these concerns and warned on new, stricter regulations.

The merger was officially confirmed when two different job advertisements were posted by the recruitment agency Ellwood Atfield. The ads read that the new representative body called NEWCO is looking for a Chief Executive Officer and a Chairman.

The ads require candidates to show a track record that proves they have an established network of international and national media and political relationships and that they have experience in dealing with the media when it comes to sensitive political topics. They are also required to provide a track record of successfully handling the lobbying and political process in several European and national institutions such as Whitehall, Westminster and ideally Brussels.

The Reason Behind the Merger

The two trade bodies were rumoured to be in merger talks for quite some time, but have dismissed all allegations on merger talks. The first one to say that the merger was unlikely was the former Chief Executive Officer for the Remote Gambling Association, Clive Hawkswood.

But they seemed to reconsider their stance on the merger when authorities first announced their decision to cut the stakes on FOBTs. The industry didn’t like the decision, so they postponed the implementation of the new regulations for six months and gave the industry a chance to prepare for the blow. Then, the then-Minister for Sports and Society Tracey Crouch decided to resign from her position as a sign of revolt, and the plan for the stakes cut to take effect on 1st of April, 2019 was resumed.

The Association of British Bookmakers was in the first row, fighting hard against the stakes cut on FOBTs, but the government still deemed them as social blight and proceeded with the plan.

Then, social media attention shifted to all the risks and dangers that online gambling posed to those vulnerable or prone to gambling-related harms. They started attacking the gambling ads, apps on smartphones, gambling with credits cards and the operators’ failure to protect problem gamblers.

The UK Gambling Commission started issuing penalties left and right, but yet, no one seemed to be pleased with only that. Both lawmakers and society demanded stricter measures for player protection.

Therefore, even though RGA and AAB have first dismissed the possibility of a merger, they reconsidered it, deeming the industry’s advocacy and lobbying architecture imminent, due to public distrust and incoming tougher rules.

Anti-FOBTs Campaigner’s Thoughts on the Merger

Matt Zarb-Cousin, the anti-FOBTs and gambling campaigner, said the worst things about this industry’s move. The creation of NEWCO, he said, indicated the operators’ realization that they were wrong and made plenty of missteps in their operations. Zarb-Cousin said that this illustrated how discredited the ABB was with the government and with policymakers, considering the way ABB handled the FOBTs issue and its failure to admit any kind of problem, which eventually led to resistance to any reasonable compromise.

Their worst-case scenario, Zarb-Cousin said, was after all enacted, so the merger and the new body to lead on all the incoming threats came as no surprise.

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