FOI: UK Gambling Commission Financial Sanctions Spending Evaluation

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According to the results from a freedom of information request /FOI/ submitted to the UK Gambling Commission by the Gambling Business Group /GBG/, the strategic voice of the gaming industry, the commission has collected a total of £58.9 million in financial sanctions and voluntary settlements from June 2014 to December 2019.

Industry Is Seeking Transparency

The United Kingdom is one of the jurisdictions where gambling industry operators have recently faced tightening regulation paired with severe fines imposed by the regulator, with the latest being a £3 million penalty on a company owned by William Hill, and this tendency urged the industry representative body, the GBC,  to inquire as to how this money was spent.

After initially trying to receive information from the GC, only to get the answer that the commission did not consider reporting on how it spends collected fees a priority, the industry trade body was left with no other option but to submit a FOI, a full two years after its first attempt.

“…Under the terms of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (FOIA), citizens have the right to request information from any publicly funded body and to get answers, which I’m pleased to say we have now received.”

Peter Hannibal, CEO, Gambling Business Group

Failure To Meet Its Obligation

Out of the £58,946,578 collected across 39 fines and settlements for the whole five-and-a-half-year period, the Gambling Commission retained £756,997 to cover costs incurred due to carrying its investigations, around £24 million repatriated to those who fell victim to illegal gambling activity, and £34,843,338 apportioned to agreed ‘socially responsible purposes’, as defined by Commission’s Statement of Principles for determining financial penalties. The response did not contain further elaboration from the Gambling Commission as to whether it had evaluated the effectiveness of how money allocated to socially responsible purposes had been spent.

Baffled as to why there was the need for a FOI to be submitted in the first place, the GBC CEO raised his concerns there was no independent process in place for checking not only the effectiveness of the spending, but also whether it had produced the desired impact, implying the regulator had failed to meet its obligation to meaningfully evaluate the effectiveness of the spent on socially responsible purposes funds, as per the Commission’s Statement of Principles.

The chief of the gambling industry body reiterated his stance that all financial resources, regardless of how they had been acquired, through donations, levies or penalties, and spent on research, education and treatment, were equally important and should be spent where most effective to reduce and prevent harm, therefore subjected to effective valuation.

The Gambling Business Group was not the only organization to criticize the UK Gambling Commission regarding the proper evaluation of the regulator’s efforts to raise consumer protection standards. The National Audit Office /NAO/, in a report ordered by the House of Commons and released in February, concluded:

“…The Commission is unlikely to be fully effective in addressing risks and harms to consumers within the current arrangements.”

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