The unedifying story of a Tory MP accepting cash for questions shows how low awareness of the UK gambling industry is, writes Jon Bruford.

I recently read a story that shocked me to the core – shocked I, I’m telling you.

A British politician has been suspended after a Standards Committee report accused the minister of corruption. Blackpool MP Scott Benton was suspended after two journalists posed as investors in the gambling industry and he agreed to ask questions for the industry in Parliament.

That’s not illegal per se, it’s just that he agreed to do it for cash. Not even much, at £4,000 a month he seems to have been a bit of a bargain. If the reporting does nothing else, it will at least create a price list for MP services. At least the industry should take note of this.

I know it sounds crazy – a Conservative politician corrupt in Britain? It’s incredible.

Sarcasm, lowest form of joke, etc. But what can you say about the ruling body that hasn’t already been said? What bothers me here, however, is that our industry has been used to make bad behavior seem worse.

“The Mustachioed Villain”

When did we become the excrement smeared on a character? When and how? – Have we become a means of showing how low a person’s character is?

Essentially, we’ve become silent movie villains with twirling mustaches. We tie the innocent public to train tracks while we cackle and rub our hands in joy.

I’ve joked more than once that in a social situation I’m more likely to tell people that I work in banking or real estate rather than the gambling industry.

I don’t actually do that. I just find it funny to suggest that these particular areas are somehow more noble than our industry. But the joke seems to have become reality. The only advantage is that I am already prepared for these social situations and have the tools at hand.

Do we deserve this status?

Most of the time obviously not. But there can be a huge disconnect between what we say and what we do. Of course not always; There are great people in our industry, innovators and thinkers, people who do solid work everywhere.

Conversely, there are also companies that talk about how incredibly important responsible gambling is in their active markets. However, they do not use it in their gray market ventures. Companies that only apply the standards when it suits them, that spread nice nonsense. That’s their prerogative, of course – but it’s a really easy target for our critics.

One for all, all for one

Some companies go a step further and don’t just give our critics ammunition. They also load the weapon, polish it nicely, give it to them and paint a beautiful circle on their backs with bright paint. This happens while they are standing just a few feet away, making it impossible for them to miss.

And that’s exactly what happened with 1XBet’s handy guide. It shows sports fans how to place bets in countries where this practice is illegal or where there is no license for it.

The company has had its share of controversies (for example, another newspaper investigation in the UK resulted in the company being ousted from the UK in 2019 after it was found to, among other things, “promoting a Pornhub casino”). I don’t think his guide will come as much of a surprise to most of the industry. It is in line with a lot of the content from the less healthy affiliates working in the gray markets.

The problem for us is that we then all get tarred with that exact same brush. We become newspaper fodder. It doesn’t matter what good we can do in the world, it doesn’t matter what things we do that no one sees and goes unreported. We are held to the lowest possible standards because that is how we are perceived by the media and therefore by the public.

As far as the media is concerned, it’s just a matter of how we can go deeper. That is their only interest.

Turn the horror stories into history

And what can we do about it? The only thing we can truly influence is what we do with our own companies, our own teams, the cultures we propagate and the standards we hold ourselves to.

Nobody is perfect, but as I always tell my kids, when you are in a situation where you have the choice between being an idiot or not being an idiot, always choose not to be an idiot.

If we want to grow the industry, clearing up this perception would be an amazing first step. Be active, start the difficult conversations. Show what we do, how we fund research and support for people with problems. How we develop software and tools to identify problems early and support research. Promote the great minds who are working to improve things, take them to a higher level, and make those voices heard.

Hold us to a higher standard so that the bad actors are shown to be just that – an outlier and not the norm. We can and do great things in the world. It would be nice if someone shouted about it for a change, but to achieve that we need to make the horror stories history.

I think we should start doing this in 2024. WHO IS WITH ME???

Jon Bruford has worked in the gaming industry for over 17 years, formerly as Managing Editor of Casino International and currently as Publishing Director at The Gaming Boardroom, alongside Kate Chambers and Greg Saint. He owns a large dog with a sensitive stomach and spends his free time learning about stain removal.