Former Paddy Power chair Fintan Drury has partnered with co-founder Stewart Kenny and Mercury Private Equity managing director Ian Armitage to create the Stop Gambling Harm initiative.
Mercury was the first-ever institutional investor to support Paddy Power, which means all members of the trio have had close and lucrative ties with the popular Irish sportsbook. Today, the trio is no longer actively involved in any of the company’s activities.
Even more, their initiative suggests a 180-degree turn regarding their old interests. They are now lobbying for important legislative changes that would cut the growing number of problem gamblers in the industry.
Stop Gambling Harm Is Lobbying for Change in the Industry
While still in their early stages, the talks carried with asset managers in the UK and Ireland are expected to reach their goals. Drury believes gambling will inevitably become as toxic as cigar smoking for investors, who will start to be bombarded with class proceedings sooner than later. Therefore, it would be in the best interests of the gambling companies themselves to start taking action. This is where their initiative comes into the picture.
Drury, Kenny, and Armitage deny their initiative is an attempt to clear their consciences after having spent many years profiting from the very industry they are now trying to change. They argue that legislators have proven to be too slow, and that it is time for institutional owners to blaze new trails and trigger the regulatory changes that are long overdue in the industry.
According to official statistics, Ireland counts around 30,000 problem gamblers. For many years, the country’s massive sports fan base and colossal horseracing industry have been continuously fuelled by the omnipresent sportsbooks in the country.
Undeniably, the addition of virtual gambling to the table has only added even more gas to the fire. Irish gamblers are known for tallying some of the biggest losses per capita on the planet. The country’s government has been trying to revamp decades-old worth of industry laws for a long time, with promises of a new regulatory body instilled in 2023.
Similar to the trio’s opinions, many voices argue that the Irish authorities should have addressed the matter a long time ago. The country is now far behind other EU member states in terms of solid regulations, and it is in great need of a coercive policy that would cut down the harms triggered by excessive gambling.
The Trio Wants a Separation between Online Casino and Sports Wagering
Stop Gambling Harm is asking for tougher regulations, along with a clear and mandatory distinction between online gambling and betting on sports. This way, operators would no longer be able to persuade players to engage in casino games while waiting for fresh sports betting results to pop up on their screens.
Another change that the Stop Gambling Harm initiative wants to see refers to the introduction of mandatory spending limits and tighter controls for players who are under 25. Several operators have already started to show their support for the initiative. Conor Grant, chief executive for Flutter said the group is planning to turn into the first company to ever introduce mandatory spending limits for players under the age of 25.
Last November, Flutter’s Paddy Power decided to back out of a televised soccer deal on RTÉ. Flutter also plans on funding gambling addiction education, research, and treatment with $3.4 million a year. The group is currently one of the largest online gambling operators on the globe. During last year’s quarter, the number of online gamblers has gone up nearly a fifth in the United Kingdom and Ireland.
The Irish government plans to set up an independent gambling regulator that would control promotional materials along with gambling platforms and mobile apps. In an industry that obviously cannot regulate itself and in the context of an alarmingly growing number of new players during the pandemic, the Stop Gambling Harm initiative is more than welcome.