Gambling Commission's Ian Angus promises "unrelenting action" but eyes "opportunity for decisive difference"

Director of Policy at the Gambling Commission Ian Angus this week spoke of the long-awaited upcoming Government review and update of the Gambling Act 2005. 

in depth gambling commission white paper1

After being postponed since the Covid-19 pandemic, the Government White Paper on gambling is supposedly soon to be released.

Although Gambling Insider won’t hold its breath due to the already-signficant delays, the idea is it will cover the basis of new regulations and restrictions to be implemented, aiming to make betting safer and fairer for consumers and ensuring companies that aren’t implementing restrictions will be reprimanded.  

Angus said at a Westminster Media Forum: “The reason we’ve been forced to escalate our enforcement action like this in recent years is because each failing is not just a failing against our rules, it’s a failing for ordinary people, some of whom have suffered terrible harm as a result.“ 

The Gambling Act Review White Paper is an official publication that sets forth its approach to regulating the online gaming industry in the UK. The review was launched in November 2020 and has been put in place due to the 2005 Act being implemented prior to the proliferation of smartphones and online gambling.  

What the White Paper will cover 

The official document will cover current policies, regulations and changes for gambling in the UK. Overall, the ultimate goal of this White Paper is to promote transparency, payment regulations, prevent money laundering, ensure fairness, protect consumers and encourage safety within all aspects of UK-based gambling activities. 

However, even though the White Paper is still yet to be released, the Commission has plans that are already underway: “Waiting for the White Paper hasn’t stopped us taking action where we have felt it necessary to make gambling safer and fairer before. We announced and introduced strict measures to make online games safer by design.” 

A steady increase since post-pandemic soon to be retreated? 

"It’s clear to us that the next few years give a real opportunity to make a decisive difference towards gambling in Great Britain being safer, fairer and crime-free" Ian Angus

In statistics published by the Gambling Commission, the year to the end of March 2022 saw a gross gambling yield of £14.1bn ($17.58bn), while participation from the start of the year to the end of December 2022 saw 44% of adults taking part in gambling activity in the last four weeks. These statistics are relatively close to where the gambling sector was at the start of 2020. 

Meanwhile, land-based gambling continued to recover (post-pandemic) last year, back to 28% participation from 25% the year before, and online gambling has plateaued compared to the year before, at 27%. This means the UK industry is on a steady way back to recovery, but with restrictions being implemented it has the potential to cause a decline in users and profits in Great Britain. 

Angus added: “Sadly, though, as a result of operators failing to comply with our rules and meet our standards, the last year has also seen the largest penalties that operators have ever had to pay. The numbers tell part of the story:” 

Effects of regulatory action 

Since the start of 2022, the Commission has concluded 27 enforcement cases with operators paying over £76m because of regulatory failures. This compares with just three operators paying out £1.7m because of failures in the 2016/17 financial year. 

To emphasise the effects gambling has had on the ordinary person, the Commission published some recent cases which included: 

One customer was allowed to open a new account and spend £23,000 in 20 minutes without any checks. One customer was allowed to deposit £43,000 and lose £36,000 within seven days without being identified as being at risk of harm. And one customer was allowed to lose £70,000 over a 10-hour period just a day after opening the account, because there were no controls in place to prevent large levels of high-velocity spend by new customers.

“All three of these examples are from different published enforcement cases that you can read on our website but there are sadly many more I could have shared. At the Commission we’re clear: failings like this cannot continue.” 

Future steps 

In terms of reprimanding operators in the UK, Angus said: “Where we find operators failing to meet our standards we will continue to take unrelenting action. We think the action we are taking makes it clear what our expectations are and at the volume we’re now broadcasting them, we are pretty sure those operators who were still deaf to them a year or two ago, are now getting the message.”

When speaking of ways to help regulate issues, Angus stated that collaboration will be crucial in mitigating the risk of serious gambling harm: 

"Where we find operators failing to meet our standards we will continue to take unrelenting action" Ian Angus

“We also challenged the industry to work with the tech sector and the Information Commissioner’s Office to develop a lawful, viable and effective Single Customer View solution to mitigate the risk of serious gambling harms. The Betting & Gaming Council has led on that piece of work and will soon trial the first phase of GamProtect, its multi-operator risk-sharing solution. We look forward to the trial going live and the subsequent evaluation and development of the model.” 

He continued: “And collaboration does not stop at the border either. Over the past year we have stepped up our engagement with other gambling regulators around the world, sharing best practice, experiences and discussing how we can work together and support each other in our own jurisdictions to achieve safer, fairer, and crime-free gambling.

“Where strong relationships already exist between regulators, we are increasingly seeing the bad practice and bad behaviour of some licensed and unlicensed operators being shared and discussed. And that helps us look at those operators’ practices and operations in our own jurisdiction. Better data will lead to better regulation and better outcomes. The same is true of better numbers on gambling harms and that is what the Commission is most interested in.” 

Closing off his speech, the Director of Policy concluded:  “I started today by saying that at the Commission, it’s clear to us that the next few years give a real opportunity to make a decisive difference towards gambling in Great Britain being safer, fairer and crime-free. Hopefully having listened to what I have to say, you agree. The Gambling Act Review is a big part of that but I think the steps that the Commission is already planning besides that to lay the groundwork already.” 

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