GC mulling measures to enhance oversight after govt report

29 June 2020

The British Gambling Commission has acknowledged that there is “always more to do” after a damning report from the House of Commons’ Public Accounts Committee described the regulator as “toothless”.

In a report released yesterday (28 June), the Public Accounts Committee, which is responsible for monitoring government expenditure, said the Commission was failing the UK’s estimated 395,000 problem gamblers. In particular, it noted that the £19m in licence fees the Commission took in was inadequate to regulate an industry with a gross gambling yield around 600 times higher than this figure.

In its response to the report, the Commission pointed to its prior record of introducing measures to enhance player protection, including the ban on gambling with credit cards, which came into effect in April of this year.

“Over the past two years we have strengthened player protection measures, tightened the regulation of the online sector, introduced strict age and ID verification checks, brought in a ban on gambling with credit cards, and been tougher through our enforcement activity,” a Gambling Commission spokesperson said. “In recent weeks we have also established an 'Experts by Experience' advisory group who will help us to strengthen our efforts and help ensure we make an impact where it matters.”

However, the spokesperson said the Commission agreed that further improvements were necessary to enhance its oversight of the industry.

“We accepted before the Committee that there is always more to do and we are carefully considering the findings of their report to see what other additional steps we can take.”

The spokesperson added that the regulator was already working to solve many of the issues highlighted in a February report from the National Audit Office (NAO).

“We are committed to making even further and faster progress to address gambling harms and were already addressing a number of the issues highlighted by the National Audit Office earlier this year,” they said.

The NAO’s report highlighted a number of deficiencies in the regulator’s ability to protect consumers, enforce licence conditions and even effectively measure the results of its regulatory work. Like the Public Accounts Committee, the NAO said the Commission lacked adequate funding to keep pace with the industry.

The NAO advised the Commission to better define its consumer protection goals so that they may be tracked and measured. It also said the regulator should improve its analytical capacities to make better use of available intelligence and develop a better strategy for compelling operators to raise standards.

The Commission has also faced a great deal of criticism from the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on gambling-related harm, which has repeatedly said the regulator is “not fit for purpose”. In a report released earlier this month (15 June), the APPG called for “an urgent review of the Gambling Commission and its capacity to effectively regulate the burgeoning online gambling industry”.

The APPG report also proposed a range of strict new controls for the industry, including a total prohibition on advertising and banning in-play betting.