Q&A: Richard Glynn

4 July 2018

The former Ladbrokes CEO says gambling industry leaders need to focus more on ensuring their businesses are sustainable if they want to avoid further clampdowns such as the FOBT cut

iGaming Business: You had a long career in the gambling industry, becoming CEO of one of the biggest gambling brands in the UK. What have you been up to since leaving Ladbrokes in 2015?
Richard Glynn: Keeping myself incredibly busy with Alinsky Partners, which is half working with private equity on coaching and advisory, and the other half working on a real passion of mine, which is mental wellbeing in the workplace as a basis for all sustainable businesses, so it has been a really exciting time.

Have you been tempted to return to the sector, and if not, why not?
I absolutely adore the industry. I was in it for many years — I was lucky enough to work with some fabulous people at Sporting Index for eight years and then had many years with Ladbrokes. It is the most complex business and it has fascinating people. The truth is I’ve never really left it — I continue to work with people in the industry and stay very close to it. It is just slightly less public these days.

You will be participating in an iGB Live panel discussing damaging perceptions of the gambling industry. These have blown up since you left the sector and are related to the intense regulatory and political scrutiny around FOBTs and responsible gambling. Were you aware of this storm brewing while still at Ladbrokes, or has the intensity and scale of the clampdown surprised you?
I was very aware of it and most observers in the industry will know that I tried to create a firebreak back in 2010, 2011. Most people know about the now rather famous Mark’s Club dinner I organised in 2011— it was a dinner I organised for the CEOs of every sector of the industry to try and arrange for the industry to take the lead on sustainability. Unfortunately, at that time self interest prevailed but it was a different time. 

All I would say is those people who think that it was just about FOBTs are missing the issue. They are just a lightning rod. It is all about sustainable business and grasping that as the leaders of industry is critical nowadays.

What lessons do you think igaming businesses should take from the FOBT situation, given they are now in the sights of regulators, politicians and pressure groups such as the Campaign For Fairer Gambling?
I think the lesson isn’t just for gambling. The lesson is that all businesses have a duty now to be sustainable and to deliver their businesses responsibly. Because of the transparency on the internet and because of the power of certainly the millennials, transparency and authenticity are the keys to long-term profitability.

I see many similarities between what we are doing now with mental health wellbeing in the workplace — talking about it, understanding it, making sure that employers give employees the tools with which the employees can take responsibility — and the gambling industry, which also needs to give its customers the right tools so that if they see there are any issues they can immediately take action.

You have got to make sure that customers are able to spot any warning signs. It is them that have to have the intrinsic motivation to take action but companies have a duty of care to make sure that consumers know what tools are available to them to do so.

It’s that transparency in the way we operate that is absolutely critical for long-term sustainability. Petrochemical industries are doing it, tobacco industries are doing it, the digital industries are doing it, banking is doing it, the health and wellbeing industries are doing it, gambling is no different from any of these.

You mentioned authenticity. That’s a buzzword that gets used a lot when it comes to millennials. Do you think it is that generation leading the push for change?
Do I believe that authenticity is just the vanguard of millennials? No, I don’t. I believe that if you speak to most people they will respond incredibly well to authenticity.

What I do believe is that millennials and the digital era have made us all look at ourselves much more carefully and look at the actions that we take to address what the purpose of business is, along with making profits, and if they have forced us to do that via a culture shift then all strength to them.

Do you think it could improve the industry’s reputation if gambling company CEOs became more accessible and made more of an effort to engage with the mainstream media?
It’s probably a little bit strange for me to be answering this question because I’ve always shied away from the public side, either through a fear or a reticence and people can interpret that how they want. But I do think from having been involved in mental wellbeing and having been involved in responsible gambling, that critical issues such as these have to be talked about.

Gambling is such a big industry now that I don’t know that the CEOs of public companies in particular have any option but to engage publicly. When you take that job I think it is one of the obligations you need to consider before accepting the role.

Richard will be speaking at iGB Live! 
Stream: iGB Live! HQ
Area: Counsel
Panel: Gambling will never attract positive media
When: 18 July@15:00