On 1 April the Gambling Commission published its 2020/2021 Business Plan, outlining its key priorities for the coming financial year. Unsurprisingly, consumer protection and enforcement for non-compliance are once again at the heart of the Commission’s plans, with its Chief Executive, Neil McArthur, warning that operators found to be acting other than in accordance with “both the letter and the spirit” of its regulations will find the regulator’s approach to enforcement “even tougher than it has been to date”.
In keeping with the Commission’s warning to the industry to act responsibly during the COVID-19 lockdown, McArthur also warns that “now, more than ever, is the moment for operators to ensure that customer safety is paramount” in light of the isolation and financial uncertainty that may come with social distancing for some individuals. The effects of the pandemic on the Commission can also be seen here, as reflected in the acknowledgment from the regulator that the achievement of some of its priorities by the stated target dates may not be possible. The Commission will be undertaking a review of these at the end of the first quarter and publishing a revised plan if needed.
In the report the Commission outlines the following five strategic priorities at a very high level (with McArthur’s foreword proving more useful to gauge the Commission’s intentions than the body of the report):
- Protecting the interests of consumers - The Commission will look to introduce new regulatory requirements to make gambling safer. The Commission notes that this will include changes in respect of VIP players (the Commission has now announced these will be limited to over 25s). The regulator will also advise the Secretary of State on the Government’s review of the Gambling Act 2005 (which itself is likely to be delayed as a result of COVID-19).
- Preventing gambling harm to consumers and the public – The Commission will establish an ‘Experts by Experience Advisory Board’ to “ensure that the voice of consumers, particularly those who have experienced harm, fully informs decisions right at the heart of the Commission”. It will also publish an evaluation of its actions to reduce harm to children and young people and review its approach to measuring the participation in, and prevalence of, gambling.
- Raising standards in the gambling market – The Commission refers to undertaking “targeted action to improve standards in the remote gambling sectors”, which we assume will include yet more regulatory investigations and enforcement action against non-compliant operators.
- Optimising returns to good causes from lotteries – The Commission will be publishing its invitation for applications for the fourth National Lottery licence, with McArthur commenting that “with the current licence ending in 2023, we are focussed on ﬁnding the right operator, who will innovate to engage players and protect them, run the National Lottery with integrity and continue maximising returns to good causes to beneﬁt society”. The Commission will also publish its conclusions following its consultation on society lottery prize limits.
- Improving the way the Commission regulates – Any user of the Commission website and eServices portal will be happy to hear the regulator intends to improve the accessibility of its digital services, as well as the licence application process. It will also publish documentation about its corporate governance process and establish the case for changes to its fee structure.
The full 2020/2021 Business Plan can be accessed here.