The Gambling Act review White Paper is apparently imminent, but UK Gambling Commision (UKGC) Head of Policy, Ian Angus, did not have many insights into its outcomes to offer the industry earlier this week.
What he did have, however, was an understanding of what the British industry can expect from its regulator over the coming years, regardless of what the legislative overhaul of gambling has in store for it, delivering a keynote speech to the Westminster Media Forum.
An international approach for a domestic regulator
Cooperation and collaboration are both concepts that the UKGC has reiterated throughout the nearly two and a half years of the Gambling Review, and ones that were not lost on Angus.
The regulator’s Head of Policy reflected on how it has “challenged the industry” to work more with the technology sector and the Commissioner’s Office on the development of the Single Customer View (SCV).
On this topic, the UKGC has been working with the Betting and Gaming Council (BGC) on development of the SCV, which Angus believes will “mitigate the risk of serious gambling harms”.
Cooperation with various stakeholders and parties will “not stop at the border”, however. Angus outlined that working with international regulators is also a key aspect of the UKGC’s current remit.
This can take on heightened importance in two ways – firstly, various national markets across the world are currently in the process of or have recently been regulated, such as Ireland, the Netherlands, Germany and Nordic countries in Europe alone.
The UKGC may take on board lessons from these countries as it strives to share best practice. Secondly, some of the operators which have found themselves on the receiving end of the Commission’s regulatory baton are active across various international sectors, such as William Hill, Entain and 888, to name a few.
“Where strong relationships already exist between regulators, we are increasingly seeing the bad practice and bad behaviour of some licensed and unlicensed operators being shared and discussed,” Angus remarked.
“And that helps us look at those operators’ practices and operations in our own jurisdictions. To be clear: No operator should want to be in this position. No operator should want to be the subject of discussion between regulators in different parts of the world.”
Meanwhile, an area of focus for the UKGC’s work with operators themselves is on account management, but Angus again reminded firms that where non-compliance occurs, ‘uncompromising action’ will follow.
With clarity on the regulatory future of the UK betting and gaming space apparently just days away, Angus emphasised that ‘better data, better research and better evidence’ will lead to better regulation.
The Commission’s long-term goal as a contributor to the ‘evidence-led approach’ taken by the architects of the Gambling Act review is to develop ‘regulation that works for all’, the body’s Head of Policy asserted.
No let up to escalating enforcement
From Angus’ speech, it is also apparent that the Commission has no patience for operators who continue to remain non-compliant with social responsibility and anti-money laundering requirements.
“Where we find operators failing to meet our standards we will continue to take unrelenting action,” he said, speaking just a couple of weeks after William Hill was fined a record £19.2m for historic social responsibility and money laundering failures.
“We think the action we are taking makes clear what our expectations are. And at the volume we’re now broadcasting them, we are pretty sure those operators who were still deaf to them a year or two ago, are now getting the message.
“Driving up the standards of gambling operators through our compliance and enforcement work is an important focus and will remain so. But we also want to work with the industry to improve protections for consumers as well as improving the evidence base and our regulation in general.”
Looking at the stats – as well as casting our minds back to recent memories of the past year – it is obvious that the UKGC has been taking its regulatory enforcement remit far more seriously.
Angus observed that since the start of 2022, a total of £76m in fines has been issued as a result of 27 enforcement cases, in comparison to £1.7m from three investigations during the 2016/17 financial year.
He continued: “The reason we’ve been forced to escalate our enforcement action like this in recent years is because each failing is not just a failing against our rules, it’s a failing for ordinary people, some of whom have suffered terrible harms as a result.”
Essentially, Angus reminded the industry of something the UKGC has been hammering home for some time. As CEO Andrew Rhodes put it in a speech earlier this year, the regulator will not allow the repeated delays to the White Paper to be used as an excuse for continued malpractice.