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The boss of the Government’s gambling regulator has not been to a high street betting shop and has been to just one casino since taking up his role a year ago.
Andrew Rhodes has also not made any visits to online gambling companies since beginning his £150,000-a-year job in June 2021.Will Prochaska, from Gambling With Lives, a charity that supports families bereaved by gambling-related suicide, said last night: ‘It’s concerning that the chief executive of the Gambling Commission has held regular meetings with 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.
‘Neither has he yet made time to hold a meeting with bereaved families who have been requesting one for over six months.
Andrew Rhodes CEO of Gambling Commission is responsible for protecting the vulnerable from gambling-related harm
‘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 Gambling Commission is responsible for regulating betting firms, advising the Government on gambling-related issues and protecting the vulnerable from gambling-related harm.
Mr Rhodes was officially made the chief executive last month after serving an interim year in the role.In that time, he has visited just one bingo hall and two adult gaming centres.
The commission, which regulates arcades, betting, bingo, casinos, slot machines and lotteries as well as remote gambling, said visits had been affected by the pandemic.
However, it added that Mr Rhodes and other executives ‘meet operators on a regular basis as well as groups representing bettors and those affected by gambling harm’.
It said: ‘A programme of engagement for the next 12 months is already under way.’
But Matt Zarb-Cousin, director of the campaign group Clean Up Gambling, called for him to pay more trips to locations where people gamble.
He added: ‘The chief executive of the Gambling Commission and other MPs who are supportive of the industry should go and see these places for themselves and not be taken on sanitised guided tours by the public affairs representatives of gambling companies.’
Details of Mr Rhodes’s visits were provided by the Government in answer to a parliamentary question from Tory MP Philip Davies, who was paid almost £50,000 to advise a gambling firm in 2019.
It also revealed that Mr Rhodes had met online gambling operators nine times and trade body representatives on 13 occasions.