UKGC Responds to APPG Interim Gambling Report

The UK Gambling Commission has responded to a new report published by the APPG, arguing that the accusations levied against the Commission were all points that the regulator had discussed.

Anti-Gambling Parliamentary Commission Criticizes the UKGC

A new interim report published by the Gambling Related Harm All-Party Parliamentary Group (GRH APPG) has called the UK Gambling Commission, the British regulator overseeing gambling, ‘not fit for purpose.’

The group published a half-year report on the state of the gambling sector in the country and argued that a £2 betting limit should be imposed on all online slot games, similar to the measures voted earlier in 2019 that led to stake reduction for all fixed-odds betting terminals (FOBTs) across the United Kingdom. Gambling companies shares immediately took a tumble on the news. Ireland debated FOBTs restrictions in January, and the UK enforced the changes as of April, 2019.

The GRH APPG claimed that there was a disparity between the permissible limits on both land-based and online casinos, and that the UKGC should seek to impose a £2 maximum stake limit on the industry online as well, citing the Gambling Act.

Similarly, the group issued 11 key recommendations that it saw fit to help improve online bet size and prizes. Furthermore, lawmakers stressed on the urgency of the matter and the need to imposed the proposed limits in a timely fashion.

More must be done to rein in sprawling gambling addiction, the APPG claimed, citing a new 1% levy on GGR that should fall under the control of the National Health System (NHS). Carolyn Harris, Chair of the GRH APPG, had this to say:

“Stakes and prize limits online would be a major step forward in reducing the harm caused by the sector. It is not at all clear why the Gambling Commission is not looking at this as a matter of urgency. It is an abdication of its responsibility as a regulator.”

Harris also argued that GambleAware has not been carrying out its function in full and control of gambling should fall within a ‘public health setting’. Furthermore, the group advised that the UKGC’s powers must be ‘strengthened’ without citing exactly what those new powers would be.

UKGC Disagrees with APPG

The UKGC hurried out to refute the statements issued by the APPG. More specifically, the regulator pointed out that UKGC Chief Executive Neil McArthur has already discussed online stakes, VIP experiences and online advertisement, seeking to create an environment that is balanced and protects the players while allowing business to run. Specifically, McArthur recently said:

We will be gathering data on online play and what that means for stakes limits. We already know that harm can occur for consumers at any stake levels and that effective use of account-based play data can be used to protect players.

In its response to the APPG, the Commission criticized the Group’s decision to publish reporting without drawing any official data from the UKGC. The regulator would have responded to the report and helped the APPG receive all necessary information for publishing a thorough report instead of bringing up issues that have been already addressed, the Commission explained.

The Commission further explained that it has been doing its job and remaining focused on protecting vulnerable people as well as underage individuals, responding to ‘emerging issues and risks.’

The UKGC also cited evidence of work that has been done in the recent past. Estimated 45 online operators have been obligated to introduce measures designed to better player security, the Commission’s response to the report read.

Furthermore, the Commission has already issued hefty penalties against 14 online operators, clearly stating that avoiding to comply with regulation would result into tough regulatory action. Concluding their statement, the Commission said that it would seek to help APPG better understand the measures that have already been taken to ensure that gambling in the United Kingdom is safer.

Business Expressing Concern

William Hill mailed an official response to media outlets, including GamblingNews, with Director of Corporate Communications Ciaran O’Brien had this to say:

“The irony of this report is it suggests the Gambling Act is analogue regulation for the digital age – yet it recommends retail solutions for digital products,” O’Brien said. “The recommendations would have significant unforeseen impacts given the black market already attracts over £1.4 billion in stakes and takes no account of the significant progress made in the online sector in terms of tracking play against markers of harm using algorithms, the use of affordability checks for all players, enhanced due diligence checks for higher staking players and the development and promotion of safer gambling tools such as deposit limits, profit-loss tracking, cooling off periods, partial self-exclusion and cross operator self-exclusion.  Perhaps the group preferred not to see the Gambling Commission to have the evolution in the industry confirmed by the regulator.”

O’Brien is right to point out that suggesting to impose a £2 limit on slot machines online might in fact quickly dismantle the gambling industry, and potentially lead to overwhelming job loss. After the £2 FOBTs ban was introduced – a step that many deemed necessary – William Hill had to close 700 betting shops, joined by other leading brands, for the sum total of 3,000 betting shops nation-wide.

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