Gambling an ‘easy target’ for UK Government after coronavirus pandemic, say barristers

By Tim Poole

The gambling industry could be seen as an easy target for the UK Government as it looks to raise funds in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to Richard Littler QC and Ian Whitehurst from Exchange Chambers.

The two barristers believe the Gambling Commission could start to base fines on a gambling company’s turnover, being handed greater power by the Government with public support in favour of coming down harder on the sector.

In a press briefing, Littler QC and Whitehurst outlined the political landscape gambling finds itself in, especially in light of societal concerns surrounding the industry, and that the UK Government has "set its sights" on gambling.

They wrote: "There is a risk of the Commission becoming judge, jury and executioner with operators becoming compliant for fear of something worse occurring.

"The risk is dramatically increased if the fines in future are or could be linked to the overall turnover of the corporate enterprise.

"Following the current COVID-19 crisis, there will no doubt be an increase in licensing and regulatory activity across a number of industrial sectors, with a view in substantial part to generating funds for the Treasury.

"The gambling industry will not be immune from further regulatory activity and may be perceived as a somewhat ‘easy mark’ in a changed political and economic landscape."

Given the current climate, the barristers believe there is a "substantial risk" the UK Government and Gambling Commission will continue to "flex their muscles," viewing gambling as a low-risk source of revenue and "easy political capital."

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