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Commission chief encourages operators to raise their standards of customer care

By Nicole Abbott
Sarah Harrison, The Gambling Commission Chief Executive, told gambling operators that it is vital that they begin “accelerating the pace” at which they put their customers’ welfare into account upon making business decisions. Although she praised some operators for “heading in the right direction”, she also warned that “where markets are dysfunctional, then the Government will intervene”.

In her speech at the Raising Standards Conference in Birmingham, Harrison encouraged the gambling industry to take greater steps: “You need to raise your ambitions and your sights higher. You need to step up the pace of change – in how you handle customer complaints; ensure advertising is clear; simplify terms and conditions; develop your risk management strategies on money laundering; evaluate the impact of social responsibility initiatives – and, working across all these areas, in how you do more to share best practice.

Harrison told the UKGC had received a “huge increase” in the number of phone call and email complaints they have received in the last 12 months, which she stressed was “well over 300% on the last two years”.

As a result, the chief executive pleaded: “Don’t wait for a crisis to happen that shakes the very foundation of customers’ trust in your industry. Act now and demonstrate to consumers that your interest in their needs is genuine.”

Harrison also advised operators to “raise your game” on anti-money laundering compliance, arguing that they showed “a lack of curiosity, and at worst, a leadership culture which puts commercial gain over compliance.”

Harrison also reminded operators of the UKGC’s “preference for pursuing compliance through means that stop short of a licence review, in favour of a regulatory settlement,” and warned that the gambling commission now wished to “remove this bias in favour of settlement. We will put access to all tools, including licence review (both of the operator and personal management licences), on an equal footing.”

The chief executive also announced that: “we will propose changes to our statement on financial penalties with the likelihood of higher penalties going forward, in particular where we see systemic and repeated failings.”

Harrison concluded by imploring the gambling industry to work with them to raise standards: “Let’s work with a shared purpose, to meet the ambition of turning this industry into the most trusted gambling sector in the world.”

Harrison plans to set out proposals for the UKGC’s new enforcement policy by Christmas, and hopes that the changes will be implemented by the start of the UKGC’s next financial year on April 1, 2017.

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