opping was appointed Chief Executive Officer for William Hill in February of 2008 and has over 40 years of experience with the company in a variety of operational and leadership roles. He agreed a deal last year that will see him remain at the head of the London-based firm until at least the end of 2013 and stated that the business has adopted a ‘watching brief’ stance when it comes to social gaming. “Social gaming is no longer the next big thing for gambling, it is already a very big thing,” read the blog from Topping.
“Over one billion dollars has already been spent by ‘traditional’ gambling companies alone in mergers and acquisitions and hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue is already being generated. The biggest market is the United States where most ‘traditional’ online gambling is banned.”
Under Topping’s leadership, William Hill established its William Hill Online joint venture with Playtech Limited in late-2008 and more recently carried out a number of strategic acquisitions in Nevada as part of a planned international expansion.
“At William Hill we know a lot about gaming and anyone who has been in a betting shop will know that William Hill ‘gets’ social,” wrote Topping. “So what could be the problem with that? Well the problem is that it is not currently regulated as a product group and we think it should be.
“It cannot be right that a child can buy chips to play on an online slot which is almost as good as anything you’ll find on WilliamHill.com. In fact, it might even pay out more than a slot you might find on an online gambling site, which could also encourage the vulnerable. But that’s okay because the chips aren’t real money. Or are they? I recently read an analyst’s report which suggested you could buy £69.99 worth of chips in one go off one popular site and there’s no limit to repeat purchases. You can also ‘gift’ chips to your friends. That sounds like a vehicle for virtual money to me, which some unscrupulous operators might, just might, be tempted to use to make ‘social gaming’ a form of real-money gaming with no regulation; even available to children.”
Topping went further and predicted that the number of operators ‘exploiting this potential loophole’ will increase ‘exponentially and potentially cause a real problem gambling issue among society’s most vulnerable’ if the UK government regulates and taxes online gambling but ignores its ‘social’ counterpart.
“The leading British gambling company has chosen to forgo a potentially lucrative business opportunity until appropriate regulation is in place,” wrote Topping. “We take the Gambling Act and our social responsibilities very seriously. We are well regulated and we have no problem with that. You can’t gamble in our retail estate or on our websites unless you are over 18 and we have stringent policies in place to make this happen.”
“I would certainly hope that John Penrose as the Minister charged with responsibility for protecting the vulnerable and Jenny Williams the Chief Executive Officer for the Gambling Commission are as resolute as we are at William Hill,” he concluded.