Labour’s deputy leader sets out plans for gambling ombudsman

18 June 2019

Tom Watson, deputy leader of the Labour Party, has revealed plans to establish a gambling ombudsman to oversee the national industry and renewed calls for igaming operators to reapply for their licences.

Watson will today (June 18) set out the plans in a speech at the independent cross-party think tank Demos, focusing on how the ombudsman would be dedicated to consumer protection in the industry.

Should the initiative be adopted, the ombudsman would have the power to adjudicate in disputes between operators and consumers, awarding players financial compensation where appropriate, The Guardian reports. 

Watson has also renewed calls for all operators licensed by the GB Gambling Commission since 2014 to reapply for approval to operate in the market. The review would be a slimmed down version of initial plans Watson set out last month when, in a letter to Culture Secretary and Gambling Commission, he called for all online gaming licensees to re-apply.

Writing in Parliamentary magazine The House, Watson said that this would ensure that all licensees are capable of operating fairly and transparently. In particular he highlighted so-called white label operators, which are active in the UK under a service provider's licence, and those with only minor UK operations that invest heavily in sports sponsorship, as companies that should be scrutinised.

 “If they fail to demonstrate corporate responsibility or adequate measures to prevent harm, these operators should face what I call the ultimate sanction: not just a fine, but the revocation of their licence," he said.

“I believe that a UK gambling licence should be a hallmark of credibility and trust. It should not be seen as a platform for overseas operators to use the reputation of British sport as a marketing tool for their own domestic audience, whereby the benefits of the UK market are enjoyed, but nothing is given back to address the harm that is caused."

He said that for too long, some elements of the industry had "acted beyond reasonable limits.

“I want to see fairness in the market, consistency in legislation, and a reduction of harm," Watson explained. "Instead I see the opposite. This is particularly true when it comes to online gambling.”