July 5, 2017
The Gambling Commission has today published the results and findings following a consultation, launched in January 2017, which has the stated intention of introducing “Changes to the enforcement strategy”, with the aim of “putting the consumer first”. The Commission used the consultation as a means of somewhat reinstating the central purpose of gambling regulation in Great Britain, reminding the industry that ‘Consumers are at the core of our approach to regulation and we expect operators to put them at the core of their businesses too’.
The consultation document was published at an interesting time as the industry gathered in London for the ICE conference in early February. There was lots of chatter at the conference regarding the intentions behind the consultation, following the headline-grabbing suggested policy shift that would remove the presumption of voluntary settlements in the context of enforcement actions, with the implication that the Commission was preparing to utilise the licensing review powers it has granted to it under Section 116 of the Gambling Act 2005 with more regularity.
It was fairly well understood in the industry that the Commission had somewhat lost its patience with continued shortfall in expected standards regarding issues such as anti money laundering, consumer rights, social responsibility, advertising regulation and use of personal data. There was a view from the Gambling Commission, as well as from the Government and other organisations such as the Competition and Markets Authority, the Information Commissions Office, the Advertising Standards Authority and the Police that a number of laws and regulations that the industry were subject to were, at least with some sections of the industry, playing second fiddle to commercial imperatives.
The results of the consultation which can be read here, confirm the industry’s concern that the Commission will take a more assertive approach in the future and that there would certainly be a shift towards significant enforcement action against operators and suppliers who fall short, as opposed to the previous preference to use the voluntary settlement process.
The Commission’s headline changes are:-
- Changes to the Commission’s statement on financial penalties including introducing higher penalties for breaches, particularly where it sees systemic and repeated failings
- Putting all regulatory tools, including licence review (both of the operator and personal management licences), on an equal footing by removing the current bias in favour of settlement (1)
- Using time-limited discounts to create better incentives for early settlement.
The consultation has received a significant amount of attention and indeed response from the industry, both operators and suppliers on an individual basis as well as from a variety of trade bodies including the Remote Gambling Association and the Association of British Bookmakers. A theme had emerged from a number of these responses – many in the industry felt the aforementioned shift of enforcement policy was possibly counter productive at a time when the industry was making efforts to rapidly improve its approach to regulation.
It would appear from the results of the consultation that the input from the industry has had limited impact on the Commission’s original proposals and as such the industry needs to prepare itself for enforcement action were it to fall short and particularly where it fails to heed the lessons it should have learnt from the case histories that are well publicised and should now be well understood.