Clive Hawkswood is to use the years of experience garnered as CEO of the Remote Gambling Association (RGA) to spearhead the new Responsible Affiliates in Gambling trade body. He spoke to AffiliateINSIDER about the organisation’s plans.

We sat down with Clive Hawkswood, where he discussed the affiliate sectors, the RGA, audits, and the future of the affiliate sectors.

For a number of years, affiliates have discussed forming a representative trade body; why has this directive been so hard to achieve?

“This is not unique to the affiliate sector. Companies are commercial entities that are competing in the marketplace. Getting over that natural hurdle is not easy and even then it requires a degree of consensus on a range of complicated issues.

“There have been some really good people grappling with this for a while and so it was always more a question of when, rather than if it would happen.”

The UK gambling industry is going through a transition period with regards to its marketing regulations, standards and practices. How do you see this dynamic being played out at an affiliate stakeholder level?

“The first point I would make is that there is a myth that affiliates are not subject to regulation.  The truth is that all these evolving regulations already apply directly to them or they have to be compliant with them anyway because of the contractual terms applied by licensed gambling operators for the provision of marketing services.

“The pace of change, and it certainly has not stopped yet, puts additional pressure on affiliates and one of our aims is to provide a vehicle for the voice of affiliates to be heard when regulators and others are considering any reforms.”

RAIG is founded by three of the biggest affiliate publishers – Racing Post, Better Collective and Oddschecker – do these firms really reflect the concerns of all affiliate marketers?

“I do not think three companies could claim to reflect everyone’s concerns, any more than over thirty companies at the RGA could in my previous position.  However, there is no reason to believe that their views would be markedly different.

“After all, we are focusing solely on issues relating to social responsibility and the wider safer gambling agenda.  Every affiliate I have spoken to so far has shown a genuine desire to do more on that front.”

At present, how are gambling affiliates and affiliate marketing practices misrepresented within existing UK advertising codes and frameworks?

“There are probably two points here. The first is that the affiliate sector in general has been misrepresented and there is a real risk that the reputation of every affiliate has been tarnished by the activities of outliers, who in some cases have acted appallingly.

“The second is whether there should be regulatory provisions that apply specifically to affiliates. That remains to be seen and I have arranged meetings with, among others, the ASA, Gambling Commission, and DCMS to get a better understanding of where their thinking is on this before we formulate a long-term work programme.”

How do you plan to shape and develop the RAIG ‘responsibility audit’ as a key principal?

“Initially the audit will be for compliance with existing rules, primarily CAP/BCAP codes and the IGRG industry code as well as getting assurances that companies are aware of the related guidance issued by regulators.  Like all new processes it will evolve and improve over time, and we are treating the audits of the three founding members as something of a pilot.

“My hope is that as we move forward the auditors will also identify examples of innovative good practice that, if the relevant companies agree, we could share more widely and by doing so help to raise standards ourselves without them being imposed on us.

“Finally, on the audit, I should stress again that it will be undertaken by an independent third party; that it is not a full audit and will only assess social responsibility; and the cost of the audit is included in the RAIG membership fees. Continued membership is dependent on passing the annual audit, but we are very aware of the need to maintain a high level of confidentiality so other members will not see the audits of other members.”

Finally, can you detail further insight on RAIG’s new agenda?

“There are, as might be expected, lots of ideas, but we decided early on that nothing for the future agenda would be decided upon until we had taken the chance to speak to lots of other stakeholders first.  Now we have had the launch we can do that openly and properly.

“If we can grow the membership in the coming months that would also make it more robust.  Whatever is decided there will always be the need for review and addition, but like any organisation we will ultimately be judged on our actions rather than our words so this new work programme will now be one of our key priorities.”