Only about a month ago, the Deputy Chief Executive of the UK Gambling Commission (UKGC) Sarah Gardner highlighted that the country’s major gambling regulatory body and the local gambling industry must share an understanding of the main principles and tasks that would help them improve the sector for the public benefit.
At the time she delivered her keynote address at the Annual Convention for BACTA members, Ms Gardner described 2021 as a year of wholesale changes for the UKGC, which welcomed its new CEO and Chairman duo.
Sarah Gardner explained that after monitoring the gambling sector of the UK for the entire coronavirus pandemic so far, the gambling watchdog needed some refreshment in order to become more focused on making sure that the gambling industry in the country is safer, fairer and free of crime. She further noted that the tougher approach that the Commission adopted in terms of regulatory enforcement had resulted in the revocation of 10 operating licenses and more than £100 million in fines since 2017/2018.
Customer Responsibility and Anti-Money Laundering Should Be Among the Gambling Companies’ Policy Improvement Objectives
In 2021, the UK Gambling Commission continued to challenge the industry on improving its policies, especially when it comes to customer responsibility and anti-money laundering, treatment of high-value customers, improving its protocols aimed at providing protection for children and vulnerable adults, as well as designing online games in a way that would better suit the constantly changing environment on the market.
Ms Gardner explained that the aforementioned improvements had started from a call for collaboration between the British gambling sector and the body that keeps it regulated and said that was the relationship that needs to be established between the industry and its regulator.
However, being a normal activity that people engage in, gambling does not mean that it has to be irresponsible. That is why the companies that offer their services on the UK regulated gambling market must be ready to comply with the requirements unveiled by the Government and local regulators in order to make sure they are fully in line with the country’s gambling and regulatory framework so that customers are well-protected against possible harm.
The UKGC Publishes the Annual Compliance and Enforcement Report to Give Details about the Local Gambling Sector
The beginning of December 2021 saw the UK Gambling Commission publish its annual Compliance and Enforcement Report that features the findings of the regulator against local licence holders and provides more details about the aspects of the sector that need more effort by operators.
The latest Compliance and Enforcement Report covers the financial year 2020/2021. Throughout the period, the regulator’s casework resulted in the suspension of the operating licences of 5 gambling companies and the revocation of 1 gambling company and 9 personal management licence holders. The UKGC also reported that 15 gambling businesses paid a total of £32.1 million in monetary fines or regulatory settlements – an amount that exceeds the one registered in the 2019/2020 financial year.
The major weaknesses that were registered in almost every case that triggered the regulatory enforcement action were pretty much the same – the gambling companies falling to stick to the rules about anti-money laundering and social responsibility.
Both the anti-money laundering and social responsibility regulations have been put in place to protect people and make sure that the local gambling sector is kept crime-free. They have also been in place to highlight two of the three objectives of the companies’ operating licenses that allow businesses to offer their services to local consumers in correspondence to the Gambling Act of 2005.
At the time when the UKGC issued its Compliance and Enforcement Report for the 2020/2021 year, the regulator’s Chief Executive Officer Andrew Rhodes explained that the reasons for the aforementioned failings are almost as concerning as the failures themselves. According to the Gambling Commission, there are pretty much two possible options – the businesses are either not making suitable resources available or are favouring their commercial objective instead of regulatory ones.
The Deputy Chief Executive of the UKGC, Ms Gardner, shared that operators need to clearly understand the issues and concerns of the local gambling regulators in order for them to improve the treatment of high-value customers. Some improvements could also be brought to the design of online games and the development of ad-tech solutions that would especially aim at ensuring maximum protection of children and vulnerable adults. The authorities are seeking to make the sector a safe place, where the level of gambling-related harm is being constantly minimised by the operators themselves thanks to constructive collaboration with the authorities.