Gambling Commission hits back at MPs' report

4 November 2019

The Gambling Commission has hit back at a group of UK MPs who described the Commission as “not fit for purpose” and said its inaction has allowed operators to “prey” on vulnerable gamblers.

The regulator responded after the Gambling Related Harm All-Party Parliamentary Group (GRH APPG) today (Monday) released its interim report on online gambling, in which it accused the regulator of failing to consider changes to rules on online stakes and prizes despite looking at other aspects of regulation.

However, the Gambling Commission disputed that claim, pointing to a recent speech given by chief executive Neil McArthur (pictured) in which he outlined the body’s plans to consider online stakes as well as VIPs, ad tech, safer product design and a single customer view.

It also criticised the group of Parliamentarians, who began their investigation earlier this year, for publishing an interim report without taking evidence from the regulator. The APPG said it will publish a full report once it has spoken to the Gambling Commission and the Gambling Minister.

“We are disappointed that this report has been released before we have been given the chance to give evidence to the APPG,” a Gambling Commission spokesperson said in a statement released to iGamingBusiness.com.

In his speech at a CEO Breakfast Briefing in London recently, McArthur said: “We will be gathering data on online play and what that means for stakes limits. We already know that harm can occur for consumers at any stake levels and that effective use of account-based play data can be used to protect players.

“Nevertheless, we are looking closely at the case for introducing further protections for consumers online and this includes the evidence for imposing stake limits online as a means of further reducing the risk of harm.”

The APPG said its report raises concerns about the lack of action from the government and the Gambling Commission to effectively address the harms caused by the online gambling sector. This inaction has “allowed the industry to continue to prey on vulnerable gamblers” the group said.

However, the Gambling Commission outlined a series of actions it has taken in recent years.

“The report does not reflect our considerable action and progress on most of the areas of concern set out in the report and we look forward to being given the chance to outline that work to the APPG,” the Gambling Commission said.

“Protecting children and vulnerable people is at the heart of our work.  We constantly look for ways to make our regulatory approach more effective, ensuring that it keeps up with changes in technology and consumer behaviour, that we remain fit for purpose and continue to effectively respond to emerging issues and risks.

“We take tough enforcement action against anyone who doesn’t comply with the rules and will continue to tightly regulate the gambling industry. We recently carried out a comprehensive compliance review, involving 123 online casino operators, which resulted in 45 online operators being forced to submit an action plan to raise standards.

"A further 14 online operators were the subject of enforcement investigations which resulted in tough sanctions. This work continues.”

It also outlined its consideration of the usage of credit cards in online gambling, which the APPG has said should be banned.

“We have also begun to gather data and look at what that means for stakes limits online and we are consulting on use of credit cards for online gambling,” the Gambling Commission said.

“Earlier this year, we published the National Strategy for Reducing Gambling Harms which sets the framework for improving prevention, education and treatment support including working with the NHS. In addition, we are also looking at how to make gambling product design safer, tighten industry practice around VIP inducements and look at how advertising technology can be used to protect children and vulnerable people.

“We look forward to ensuring the APPG fully understand this comprehensive programme of regulation that is already working to make gambling safer for all.”