Saying ‘there is a lot of work to do’ on the Gambling Act review and its follow-up consultations may seem like a slight understatement, but Tim Miller explained that progress is being made.
The UK Gambling Commission (UKGC) Executive Director – with a chief remit for research, statistics and policy – commented on White Paper developments at the ‘Regulating the Game’ conference this week.
Industry taking lead on Ombudsman
Both the Commission and the DCMS are currently engaged in consultations with gambling reform stakeholders, including of course operators and suppliers themselves, with the first round of UKGC Consultations set to end on 18 October 2023 and DCMS ones earlier on 4 October.
From Miller’s observations, the industry has taken leadership in one key area – the creation of an Ombudsman. The government is currently looking to ‘quickly introduce’ an Ombudsman via voluntary industry measures – a pragmatic solution which will deliver consumer benefits sooner, Miller acknowledged.
“We look forward to seeing what the BGC proposes in this space and we, alongside the Ombudsman Association, will be providing DCMS with our analysis of any proposals,” he said.
However, although the industry is taking leadership in this area, its plans and proposals are not guaranteed success. Miller asserted that the Commission will not support the industry’s Ombudsman proposals if it does not meet ‘the accepted standard’.
“In short, we will not hardwire into our rule book a model of redress that is compromised and does not deliver for the consumer,” he continued.
The Commission expects industry leadership, or at least strong contributions, on other areas of betting reform such as the Single Customer View (SCV), a long-standing objective of the regulator to achieve greater player protection.
The Betting and Gaming Council (BGC) has been working with the Commission to develop a pilot on this, and Miller explained that the Commission is expecting an update ‘on the progress of this project before it is expanded to cover more operators and more consumers’.
Commission doubling down on data
For its part, the Commission seems primarily focused on improving data collection. Again, this has been a common talking point of UKGC leadership throughout the Gambling Act review.
This was also something Miller – alongside UKGC Chief Executive, Andrew Rhodes, and Deputy Chief Executive, Sarah Gardner – outlined as a core priority to MPs earlier this month.
In his most recent speech, Miller doubled down on data, explaining that “a key area where the Commission will make a major contribution to White Paper implementation will be improving the data and improving the evidence base”.
He continued: “With a pilot conducted in full and published last year already, our new Participation and Prevalence survey, the Gambling Survey of Great Britain will launch early next year.
“When it’s fully rolled out, it will be the largest survey of its type anywhere in the world, and will become the new gold standard for participation and prevalence data in Great Britain, with updated questions for the digital age and predictable, regular data for study.
“We’ve been testing and refining the methodology since we published the results of the pilot and have been updating the stakeholder groups who helped us design it – from operators, academics and lived experience – along the way.”
DCMS, meanwhile, will take the lead on one of the most important and widely debated aspects of the White Paper – the RET levy. The consultation on this issue is due to commence after the first round ends in late October, with finance risk checks and game design as the current focus.
Whilst Miller was not able to divulge any insights on how DCMS will handle the RET levy consultation, he made clear what the Commission expects from betting stakeholders and what the regulator’s ultimate continues to be.
He concluded: “I started today stating that the Gambling Act Review is perhaps the best opportunity to make evidence-based changes to the way gambling is regulated in Great Britain since the 2005 Act was passed.
“That it is an unmissable opportunity to make gambling safer, fairer and crime-free. So now is the time to push on and make sure that over the next couple of years, we make the most of it.”