Andrew Rhodes criticised for no engagement with bereaved families of gambling harms

Gambling With Lives has publicly called-out UK Gambling Commission (UKGC) Chief Executive Andrew Rhodes for finding no time to communicate with the families bereaved by gambling suicide. 

The Charity that seeks a root-and-branch reform of UK gambling focused on suicide prevention told the Daily Mail that Rhodes had made no attempt to engage with families of suicides attributed to gambling disorders.

The Daily Mail cited that approaching his first year as ‘the government’s gambling Tsar’, Rhodes had not visited a single highstreet betting shop and just one casino.

Rhodes was appointed Interim CEO of the UKGC last June, following the abrupt resignation of Neil McArthur over the Commission’s high-profile regulatory failings that were brought to life by the administration of Football Index.

In May, the DCMS announced that Rhodes had accepted to become the formal executive of the UKGC, branded by DCMS as outstanding in his handling of packed interim agenda, overseeing the final stages of the Gambling Act Review and handling of the fiercely contested Fourth National Lottery Licence Competition.

His appointment was welcomed all-round, deemed as non-bias and having no previous relationship with the gambling sector.

However, the Daily Mail’s article cited Gambling with Lives CEO Will Prochaska who outline concerns that Rhodes had “held regular meetings wit CEOs of gambling companies and industry lobbyists, but hasn’t yet found the time to visit a betting shop where he would be able to witness the damage this industry does”.

“Someone takes their life because of gambling every day in England alone, and it should worry us all that the regulator of the industry that causes those deaths spends more time listening to industry CEOs than he does to those most harmed.

The UKGC responded to criticism, stating that Rhodes interim schedule had been affected by the restrictions of the COVID-19 pandemic and that the CEO had a new programme of engagement for the next 12-months.

Furthermore, the Commission cited that Rhodes and his executive team were in constant engagement with groups representing betting customers and securing personal feedback from those with lived-experiences of gambling harm.

Addressing industry Stakeholders at last December’s GambleAware Conference, Rhodes outlined that regardless of the White Paper recommendations, his department would take a tougher stance monitoring licensed gambling businesses.

Backed by new Gambling Commission Chairman Marcus Boyle, Rhodes stated that the regulator would no longer accept ‘repeat offenders’ failing on their gambling duties, in a new era of compliance enforcement for the Commission. 

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