The long-anticipated report by the all-party parliamentary group (APPG) on betting and gaming, a self-styled “go-between” the industry and policymakers, has presented some controversial findings. The document, which The Guardian saw as a draft, argues that the UK Gambling Commission (UKGC) has been too harsh on the industry.
APPG Finds UKGC Has Been Too Harsh on Industry
As presented by The Guardian, the findings of the report are a complete U-Turn from what many expected to be a constructive but mostly critical overview of the gambling industry and its regulator. In fact, the APPG’s conclusion sides mainly with gambling but seem to do so in a way that goes against the grain of what has been happening in the industry in the United Kingdom over the past couple of years.
The APPG alleges that the UKGC has been intentionally seeking to undermine the industry, threatening to destroy what is one of the world’s most successful gambling industry models. Understandably, the UKGC cannot accept the surmise, as it has previously suffered critics that appear too lenient on gambling.
The UKGC is also accused of acting outside of its regulatory purview to achieve results, such as reducing the number of problem gambling. This surmise sounds almost incomprehensible given the objective set out at the start. Reactions followed briefly after, with Labor MP Conor McGinn confirming for The Guardian that he had left the APPG. He served as the group’s vice-chair but has now distanced itself from it and the report.
The MPs call for an urgent need for change in the way the regulator administrates rules in the industry. The report compares the watchdog to a bully that would do much to enforce a harder stance on problem gambling.
Who Will Watch the Watchmen?
The APPG has received criticism in the past for accepting “freebies” from the gambling industry, with some members appearing at sponsored events by gambling operators or accepting tickets and/or donations to attend various athletic contests, the media reminded.
Meanwhile, the UKGC has argued that pleasing the industry has always been a hard task and one that is ultimately not feasible:
“Some sections of the industry are never going to be content with a regulator which continually pushes for safer gambling.”Gambling Commission
The regulator is now in the process of reviewing the draft contents of the reports. The recent document is an insult to similar statements by the public accounts committee and the National Audit Office, concluding that the UKGC can step up its game.
The Guardian reached out to Clean Up Gambling director Matt Zarb-Cousin who said he was surprised to learn about the findings but attributed it to MPs becoming too friendly with the industry. According to Zarb-Cousin, the report was “ludicrous,” to say the least, and he would not have expected policymakers to complain about regulation being too tough on the industry.