UK regulator seeks input on responsible gambling strategy

13 December 2018

The UK’s Gambling Commission has invited contributions towards the development of its new National Responsible Gambling Strategy, which will be ushered in early next year.

Views are being sought via submissions to the commission’s website from “as many people and organisations as possible” through to February 15 on five priority areas: Research to inform action, prevention, treatment, evaluation and gambling businesses.

The approach would appear to have been streamlined in comparison with the current three-year strategy, which will conclude in March and has as many as 12 priority actions – ranging from consulting a culture of evaluation to piloting intervention.

Not all of the priority areas target operators, with the strategy also supposed to set the agenda for public agencies, regulators, trade bodies, commissioning organisations and treatment providers.

"The decision to focus on five priority areas was based on the emerging advice we have received from our independent advisers, the Responsible Gambling Strategy Board (RGSB), and engagement with key organisations who have been involved in delivering the current strategy, a commission spokesman told iGamingBusiness.com.

"While we do not wish to prejudge the outcome of the consultation, we hope that responses will focus on ways that we, and other bodies with a role to play, can make real progress towards reducing gambling harms, on recommendations for safeguarding consumers and the wider public (and in particular children and young people), and on ensuring that gambling is fair and safe."

In its most recent annual progress report on the current strategy, the commission admitted disappointment with progress on a number of the prority actions set out in 2016.

Analysts at Regulus Partners responded to the launch of the consultation by reflecting that “some fairly obvious mistakes were made with the formulation and execution of the present three-year strategy”.

“Weak engagement with the industry at the outset meant that operators never truly considered it to be their strategy," Regulus explained. "The promised support for licensees from GambleAware and the Gambling Commission has not materialised in any meaningful or constructive fashion; and crucially the strategy did not incorporate a plan for delivery.

“In truth, the National Responsible Gambling Strategy for 2016 to 2019 has been more a set of noble aspirations than a strategy. Judging on the nature of the Gambling Commission’s consultation process, the regulator is keen to learn from past mis-steps, which is in itself highly encouraging.

“If licensees are once again expected to play an important role in the attainment of the new strategy, it is essential that they engage and are engaged with the process.”

The regulator itself reiterated the desire to work with other organisations in devising and executing the strategy.

The commission works closely with regulators such as licensing authorities, as well as the police, UK tax authority HMRC and the Competition and Markets Authority. In recent months, it has increasingly collaborated with the Advertising Standards Authority, and at the end of October, the commission introduced tougher sanctions for operators that fall foul of advertising rules.

“We are only one of the bodies with a role to play, and will work together with government, public health, the charitable sector and gambling businesses in order to make real progress to reduce gambling harms,” the commission said.

“We want as many people and organisations as possible to have a voice in shaping the strategy and the arrangements needed to deliver it.”

The regulator is also conducting a formal consultation on a proposed amendment to its licensing requirements that would require gambling businesses to make contributions towards one or more approved organisations.

“This is intended to give clarity to gambling businesses on how they can ensure they are compliant,” the commission added.

It was announced last month that Dr Anna van der Gaag, one of the country’s leading social care experts, had been appointed as the new chair of the commission’s RGSB. Van der Gaag will succeed Sir Christopher Kelly in March.