GB regulator issues £58.9m in penalties to Dec 2019

6 March 2020

The British Gambling Commission has collected £58.9m in financial sanctions and voluntary settlements over a five and a half year period between June 2014 and December 2019, according to the results of a public records request from the Gambling Business Group (GBG).

Of these funds, the Gambling Commission has spent £756,997 covering their own costs in carrying out the investigations. A further £24m was repatriated to those who fell victim to illegal gambling activity and £34.8m was spent on “socially responsible purposes”.

Peter Hannibal, chief executive of the Gambling Business Group (pictured), said the industry trade body made the public records request after not receiving a response from the Commission through other channels.

“When we first wrote to the then Minister, Tracey Crouch and subsequently requested the information from the Commission, we were informed [by the Gambling Commission] that they did not consider it to be a priority,” Hannibal explained.

The £58.9m was collected across 39 fines and settlements. The largest of these was a £7.8m penalty package paid by 888 in 2017 for significant flaws in its social responsibility processes. This included the repayment of £3m in deposits made by self-excluded customers.

Hannibal added he was disappointed to see that the Gambling Commission does not appear to have carried out measures to evaluate the effectiveness of their spending.

“Apart from the straightforward issue of why did it take an FOI request to get this information in the first place, it appears that the Commission does not have an independent process in place for checking whether the funds they have allocated to socially responsible purposes have been spent effectively and have delivered the impact intended," he pointed out.

"This is despite the fact that within the Commission’s own Statement of Principles there is an obligation to meaningfully evaluate the effectiveness of the spend on socially responsible purposes.”

“One of the few things that all stakeholders in UK Gambling can agree on is that all RET [research, education and treatment] financial resources are vitally important and should be spent where they are most effective in reducing and preventing harm. Whether these funds are raised through donations, or via a levy, or as in this case through financial penalties, all funds are equally valuable and should as a result be subject to effective valuation.”

The GBG chief's comments echo those of the National Audit Office (NAO), which queried whether the regulator carried out proper evaluation of its efforts to raise consumer protection standards in February. The NAO also questioned whether the Commission's enforcement actions were truly effective, noting that it was unclear if they were succeeding in deterring operators from breaking rules and regulations.