Is the UK Gambling Industry Diverse Enough?

The UK gambling industry is facing a number of challenges in the modern age, from the potential cap on fixed-odds betting terminals (FOBTs) to the regulator's clampdown on advertising practices and player promotions.

The UK Gambling Commission (UKGC) is at heart of this evolution, as it looks to work towards a four-point strategy that will protect vulnerable gamblers and ultimately improve the reputation surrounding virtual gambling in Britain.

Interestingly, the UKGC's outgoing CEO Sarah Harrison has also highlighted sexism as an issue that is rife within the sector, and one that she wants to address before her tenure ends. In this post, we'll explore this further and ask whether or not the sector is diverse enough?

What Did the UKGC Say on the Issue of Sexism?

This is part of a wider trend at present, as concerns about sexual equality persist throughout the western world. Formula One is the latest industry to address this problem, having taken the controversial decision to ban grid girls from participating at all F1 events. This has been met with derision by some, but there's no doubt that this practice is increasingly out of sync with current social norms.

In the case of the UKGC, the group decided to boycott the recent ICE Totally Gaming event, and has pledged to do the same at any other industry event that features scantily clad women as a way of driving greater attendance and satisfying delegates. Sarah Harrison believes that the deployment of women in such a sexist and outdated manner represents a “significant stain on the reputation of the industry”, and one that should concern all executives and participants in the industry.

As a result, she previously urged all industry bodies to follow suit and strive to stamp out sexism within the sector, by refusing to attend such events or participate in their promotion.

The Changing Times – Do Attitudes Need to Change?

While the rallying cry of the UKGC makes perfect sense, it's interesting to note that their calls ultimately fell on deaf ears within the sector. Not only did all of the major, industry brands attend, for example, but many revelled as guests were entertained with a Playboy-themed show, pole dancers and a number of hostesses who claimed that they were harassed and propositioned by attendees.

The latter point is particularly concerning, as is the fact that gaming software giant Microgaming kicked off the conference with a Playboy-themed dance show less than 24 hours after the UKGC had made its official statement. Similarly, gambling firm Endorphina hosted a highly popular stand at which pole dancers titillated an almost exclusively male audience,

Many in the industry will claim that the event has already been toned down in recent years, of course, while others will say that consumer-led events of this nature should not detract from the level of diversity that exists within the sector. After all, the industry has grown into an entity where talented and experienced women have worked hard to occupy executive posts, with the UKGC's CEO Sarah Harrison a prominent example. For some, this highlights the true state of diversity within the industry, rather than individual, consumer-facing events that look to wow customers and ultimately drive sales.

The Bottom Line

The counter-argument here is that the diverse nature of the industry should not be taken for granted, and that the use of such sexist promotional practices are arguably more harmful in a marketplace that has already done so much to drive equality.

With this in mind, it seems a genuine shame that the type of entertainment used at ICE Totally Gaming should undermine the levels of diversity and equality that have already been achieved in the world of gaming.

The UKGC is therefore right to call for a response from firms, and hopefully they can encourage market leading firms to change their attitudes in the future.
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