Examination of Witnesses (Questions 72-79)
MRS BRIGID SIMMONDS AND MS SUSANNA FITZGERALD QC
TUESDAY 11 JUNE 2002
72. Welcome back, Mrs Simmonds. I have read the memorandum submitted by Business In Sport and Leisure. Basically, you take a fairly free market approach. You have heard from the various agencies concerned with gambling and gambling addiction that something more is needed. Can you say where you see the line being drawn?
(Mrs Simmonds) It is a balance. "A Safe Bet for Success" provides that balance and a much greater balance in regard to looking after people who have a problem with gambling than the existing legislation which is the 1968 Gaming Act. One of the things that the new proposals will give is the Gaming Board or the new Gambling Commission is the ability to prosecute those who do not behave responsibly. It will give local authorities the powers over the premises licence. You will have a "fit and proper person" to operate in any form of gambling and we would hope that, rather like liquor licensing, that you will have the ability to put enforcement notices on those who behave improperly and then take them to court and have the licence removed. One of the problems we have at the moment is that, particularly in places like taxi ranks and fish and chip shops and some other premises, no one is paying particular attention when children are playing those machines when they should not be.
73. You are welcoming the Budd Report proposals. I know you have some quibbles with the detail.
(Mrs Simmonds) Yes.
74. You heard from Mr Bellringer some of the difficulties that the leading organisation in dealing with addiction problems has in its funding. You highlight in your own paper the commitment to social responsibility but BISL encourages its members to contribute to the industry trust. Funding is clearly an important issue. Do you not think you should do more than encourage?
(Mrs Simmonds) The way the trust has been set up is that the majority of the money is coming from trade associations. We are not a trade association. We have members in every form of gambling and all the members who are in mainstream gambling have made individual contributions as companies and they have also made contributions through their trade association. We were then involved initially in making sure that that worked. As we move on, we have to look at other ways of moving towards that £3 million but the industry would say that we also have to have a commitment from the Government that the legislation is going to change. We know the time it takes to get primary legislation. I do not believe, because we have experience of the problem areas, that using the regulatory reform process will work because it will not be considered appropriate by the Committee. The balance has to move along with the contributions increasing, along with the legislation coming in which will give the industry greater freedom and impose some restrictions.
75. The industry will increase its contributions if the legislation changes?
(Mrs Simmonds) I think it is very early days.
76. It sounds like a gun to the Government's head.
(Mrs Simmonds) No. One of the things that has been considered by the BBPA has been that you could raise money by collecting 1p per fruit machine per day. That gives £3.65 a year. If you multiply that by 70,000 machines that are in pubs that would give you a contribution. If you are all in bingo, you are the same sector. You can give money as an association. What we have to find a mechanism for is to make sure either all those people who are not part of an association contribute, and that is particularly true of the internet and interactive types of gambling, and that you are getting money from all those different sources.
77. Do you accept that we are moving to a situation, particularly if the legislation is introduced in the form which seems to be proposed at the moment, where there will be a proper mechanism for the industry and each component part of the industry making a proper contribution?
(Mrs Simmonds) That is what the Trust is working on at the moment. I would agree with what has been said previously, that if that mechanism does not work there should be a way of contributions being required by the licence, but we do not think it is a good idea to have a statutory levy.
78. It could be a voluntary levy?
(Mrs Simmonds) Very much so.
(Ms Fitzgerald) The Gambling Commission has a social responsibility and as part of that they include knowledge about the Gambling Trust and so on because, after all, there are people who are in the gambling industry who are not part of any of these organisations and you have to get to them. They may be the one-off operator who simply does not know about these things so it is ignorance rather than wilfully refusing to do it. There has to be an education programme for people from the outside, trade associations and so on, to get them involved. I am a trustee of GamCare.
79. There is a commitment and it might seem more serious if the industry was prepared to do a little more than say that it supports the social aspects of the proposals and put its hand in its pocket with a proper scheme, rather than one imposed on them.
(M Fitzgerald) I think it is early days. There has been a dramatic change that has concentrated everybody's minds. Looking at it from the GamCare side, we can see how it has concentrated everybody's minds in about the last 12 months on it and the industry has done a huge amount in the last year. It is growing. It should have every encouragement to grow and the encouragement it has received from the Government has been enormously helpful and we would hope that would continue.
(Mrs Simmonds) It is a voluntary scheme which the industry has come up with. It has not been imposed on it.