The Labour Party is set to urge the authorities to establish a new gambling ombudsman to provide players with legal protection and to help them deal with financial compensation issues related to gambling.
The deputy leader of the Labour Party, Tom Watson, is expected to give a speech at a Westminster-based event and to explain why a new watchdog dedicated to customer protection should be created. According to Mr Watson, the consumer protection which is currently provided under the existing system headed by the UK Gambling Commission (UKGC) is not the best one possible, as it allowed gambling companies to avoid actual measures against them due to unclear rules.
The proposal is to be unveiled as the latest part of the Labour Party’s efforts to overhaul betting regulation via a new Gambling Act. Last year, the Labour published a review containing some new policies which according to the party could help the UK authorities to tackle problem gambling, including a possible ban imposed on using credit cards while gambling.
According to Mr Watson and his party, the lack of an ombudsman means that local gamblers are being let down, as there is no one between the players and the gambling operators to prevent the companies from encouraging they customers to continued gambling thanks to various enticements such as free bets and special bonuses.
Ombudsman Figure Would Serve as Arbiter and Impose Monetary Fines
Tom Watson is also expected to urge a restructuring of the so-called tripartite arrangement under which the competent authorities monitor and control gambling operators and customers’ treatment. Under the existing system, the UKGC works in collaboration with the Advisory Board for Safer Gambling, and with the largest charity organisation which operates in the local gambling industry – GambleAware.
The Labour Party’s deputy leader believes, that the present arrangement of the sector’s regulation has resulted in no formal resource for customer protection, no formal integration with the National Health Service (NHS), as well as in an underfunded commissioner which uses the industry’s voluntary contributions, and in an “overstretched” regulatory body. The establishment of an ombudsman is expected to deal with financial compensations, including the ones to the victims of gambling-related crimes.
The proposal which Mr Watson is expected to make later today, includes a tripartite structure, under which the regulatory body would have to monitor gambling operators, a specialist NHS programme aimed at research, education and treatment of gambling and gambling-related harm would be released, and an ombudsman would be set to protect British gambling customers.
Under the existing regulatory regime, the UKGC can seek to impose monetary penalties on gambling operators that breach the terms of their operation licence, but it cannot serve as the arbiter of whether the affected customers get their compensations. The new ombudsman figure would not be able to impose monetary fines to operators, but would also monitor the clarity of terms and conditions and make sure there is transparency around how companies use the data they collect from their customers to later target them with special offers and bonus promotions.