On 27 June 2019, the Gambling Commission (the “Commission”) published its annual enforcement report, ‘Raising Standards for Consumers’ (the “Report”), which provides an overview of the enforcement work it has undertaken throughout the preceding financial year and details future lessons for operators.
The aim of the Commission’s enforcement work is to protect consumers and the public and to raise standards in the industry through targeted actions. Above all, the Commission hopes that the Report will be used as a support tool for operators in order to guide compliance with the Gambling Act 2005 (the “Act”) and the Licence Conditions and Codes of Practice (the “LCCP”).
The Report provides insight into six key areas:
- safer gambling – ensuring operators protect vulnerable consumers;
- anti-money laundering – working to prevent crime and the proceeds of criminal finance from entering the industry;
- marketing and advertising – ensuring that operators market products in a socially responsible way;
- illegal gambling – investigating offences committed under the Act;
- affordability and consumer protection – ensuring operators implement effective controls to identify and manage risk; and
- compliance – highlighting good practice identified throughout the year.
It also provides various ‘healthchecks’ in which operators are encouraged to consider and respond to certain questions to ensure compliance with the LCCP.
The Commission reports that, over the past twelve months, it has carried out more than 160 investigations, dealt with 2,000 intelligence reports and carried out hundreds of risk-based compliance assessments. This work has resulted in a variety of sanctions against operators, including £19.6 million in penalty packages and surrender and warning notices for various Personal Management Licence holders.
In this regard, the Commission considers that whilst operators have taken necessary steps towards ensuring the provision of safer gambling environments and the protection of consumers, there is a considerable amount of work still to be done.
The Commission’s Chief Executive, Neil McArthur, commented:
“I want gambling consumers in Britain to be able to enjoy the fairest and safest gambling in the world and I want gambling operators to work with us to put customer enjoyment and safety at the top of their corporate agenda. As the report shows, we will be tough when we find operators bending the rules or failing to meet our expectations, but we also want to try and minimise the need for such action by providing advice, a programme of support material and compliance activity to help operators get things right in the first place.’’
It will be important for operators to take the time to consider the contents of the Report and if necessary, adjust their policies and procedures accordingly. Operator failures to develop appropriate policies and procedures as a result of lessons learnt are regularly considered by the Commission in the imposition of penalty packages.
As noted above, the Commission considers that there remains a significant amount of work for operators to do in order to protect consumers properly. That view will likely result in the implementation of yet more stringent regulation of operators if problems persist. Operators must recognise that the Commission requires a safer gambling environment for consumers with appropriate protections in place and that minimal compliance and engagement will not be sufficient.
Enforcement action is just one of the ways in which the Commission is seeking to ensure fairer and safer gambling. By way of example, the Commission also recently launched the new National Strategy to reduce gambling harms. As noted in our recent LawNow, operators will be expected to demonstrate how they are pursuing the strategy through raising standards in compliance, including evidencing ongoing trials and evaluating safer gambling activities.