UK Gambling Commission off the Mark as Regulator, According to Operators

Posted on: March 23, 2023, 04:10h. 

Last updated on: March 23, 2023, 04:10h.

Last December, the UK’s Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) asked for input from the gaming industry that would shape future gambling policy. The results are in and one common thread is operators’ belief that the UK Gambling Commission (UKGC) needs more work to become a viable regulator.

The UK flag unfurled and waving
The UK flag unfurled and waving. Gaming operators believe the country’s gaming regulator needs a lot of work. (Image: Flickr)

The review is part of the UK’s ongoing preparation of its gambling white paper, which, after more delays, the government won’t likely present until May. A DCMS committee solicited input from operators to help the process, with Bet365, Flutter and others responding.

The government agency, which has the lead in preparing the gambling reform, has published some of the feedback it received. Almost across the board, operators voiced their concern over the UKGC’s conduct.

UKGC Under Fire

The UK’s House of Lords, the National Audit Office and even the UKGC have said that gambling addiction is on the rise in the country. This is despite the fact that the regulator’s own surveys have shown this to not be the case.

That calls into question the UKGC’s efforts and primary motivation behind issuing record numbers of monetary fines. For its part, Flutter believes it knows what the answer is.

In its response, according to the information the DCMS provided, the global gaming giant pointed out that it has repeatedly given feedback to the UKGC. However, almost none of what it has presented has made it into final policy.

In addition, the regulator doesn’t engage with operators to offer input on the feedback they provide. Instead, it remains silent until it’s ready to issue its latest fines.

It is even rarer for the Gambling Commission to provide feedback on our response so that, for example, we can understand why our evidence was not seemingly taken into account in that final outcome,” said Flutter in comments to the DCMS.

The company also raised concerns over the regulator’s ability to properly address the industry. It asserted that the UKGC has repeatedly and seriously “underestimated the complexity of the technology” operators use to conduct business. To help overcome that hurdle, Flutter believes the UKGC needs to have more input from expert industry insiders.

Bally’s Corp, in part, agreed with Flutter. It stated that the commission doesn’t assess emerging technologies that address current regulations when it introduces new policies.

Adding to the conversation, Entain echoed the sentiment and added another layer. It suggested the UKGC should be “co-operative rather than confrontational” when interacting with operators.

Affordability Checks Continue To Cause Friction

All of the operators touched on affordability checks, rumored to be a huge part of the upcoming gambling reform. The consensus has been that these checks will lead to an increase in black market gaming.

That may or may not be true, which is where the problem lies. There have never been any in-depth studies on the viability of the checks. Some operators, like Bet365, have begun to make changes in anticipation of the mandatory spending controls, but it’s difficult to implement policy without guidance.

Entain highlighted a survey that showed that about one-third of gamblers would move offshore if the UK were to implement mandatory affordability checks. Flutter, which along with Entain have been at the forefront of voluntary responsible gambling measures, agreed that only fully tested procedures should be considered.

The gambling white paper has been undergoing rewrites for almost three years. It was to be presented in September of last year before a series of government missteps and unforeseen changes caused delays.

The DCMS, which has seen three different bosses in less than two years, recently indicated that the white paper could be ready by the end of this month. However, with the department only now reviewing responses from operators, that seems unlikely. Implementing new policies without analyzing input from the industry would inarguably cause irreparable harm.

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