RGA, ABB Likely to Merge

Two United Kingdom trade associations representing the gambling industry, the Remote Gambling Association (RGA) and the Association of British Bookmakers (ABB), are likely to be merged into a yet-to-be-named lobbying entity serving their clients’ combined interests.

News of the likely merger between the two was sussed out by the UK’s Guardian, a generally anti-gambling outlet that disccovered the merger’s future happening from an executive job description posted by London-based headhunter firm Ellwood Atfield. The ad for a new frontman for the combined entity, described as “NEWCO” (a placeholder for “new company”, meaning its name has not been finalized), was picked up by LinkedIn about two weeks ago.

The Guardian cited a senior industry source as asserting a likely merger between the two groups was correct. “All of the issues on responsible gambling and tax cut across the industry, so it’s time to get lined up a bit better,” the source offered. Despite the outing of the merger plans, neither of the groups has issued a statement regarding the near-future nuptials.

The move makes sense as the gambling industry continues its inexorable streamlining. The RGA is heavily focused on onlie-gambling matters and was deeply involved in the battle over the UK’s imposition of a remote gambling tax a couple of years ago, while the ABB, more focused on betting-shop services and issues, was front and center in the UK’s heated fight over FOBTs (fixed odds betting terminals), and the slashing of maximum bets on the machines from £100 to £2, amid public furor over addictive-gambling behaviors.

Neither group publishes its full roster of member operators, though most large UK-facing operators are understood to be members of one or both of the two groups.

According to the headhunter’s description, the new entity is “looking to appoint a Chief Executive to lead what will be the largest and most prominent organisation representing the gambling industry. The Chief Executive will build and maintain trust in the gambling industry, both within the industry itself and with external stakeholders, and will be responsible for building a team in their vision.”

The help-wanted posting also describes the basic responsibilities for the new CE:

  • Alongside the Chair serve as the face of this new organisation, being the point of contact and a voice for the industry on all the issues of importance to regulators, legislators, key decision makers and the media
  • To build the membership of this organisation to include industry stakeholders who are not currently members and identify industry requirements and develop new high-quality services to meet the needs of the industry
  • Direct the external communications strategy (including press relations for the new organisation) along with leading and managing advocacy positions on issues in co-ordination with the members
  • Overall responsibility for the organisational budget and management of a team

It’s unknown whether the existing heads of the two merging entities will be considered for the new Chief Executive post, though that may factor into why the merger is occurring now. Clive Hawkswood, the long-time head of the RGA, served as its CEO since the group’s inception in 2004 but departed from his post last month. Hawkswood announced his decision to leave the RGA last September, but no successor to his post has been named, almost certainly because of the pending merger. Malcolm George remains the Chief Executive at ABB, and he must be considered among the leading candidates to lead the newly merged entity.

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