UKGC called ‘toothless’ in new parliamentary report

UKGC criticised

The UK Gambling Commission (UKGC) has been heavily criticised in a report released by the House of Commons Public Accounts Committee. 

In particular, the committee was perceived to not be doing enough to protect individuals in the UK from potential harmful effects related to gambling. 

The report also believed that the Department of Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) has been complacent in tackling the issue. 

Just one evidence session with the UKGC and DCMS was carried out, with 17 written submissions also included. 

Recommendations made 

The commission was accused of not having anything to measure its own performance by, though it regularly urges the gambling industry to enforce their own player protection KPIs. Committee Chair Meg Hiller MP had the following to say about the UKGC. 

“What has emerged in evidence is a picture of a torpid, toothless regulator that doesn’t seem terribly interested in either the harms it exists to reduce or the means it might use to achieve that. 

“The Commission needs a radical overhaul: it must be quicker at responding to problems, update company licence conditions to protect vulnerable consumers and beef up those consumers’ rights to redress when it fails.”

Meanwhile, the report went on to mention the below. 

“The Commission has clear overall objectives to ensure that gambling is fair and safe but does not have meaningful indicators to measure whether it is being effective, and therefore to be held to account. The Commission also has limited understanding of the impact of its actions to improve outcomes for consumers. 

“For example, it increased the value of the financial penalties it enforced from £1.4 million in 2014-15 to £19.6 million in 2018-19, but it does not know whether this increase has strengthened the deterrent on operators to break rules. The Commission acknowledges it can do more to improve how it evaluates its impact and is planning work to strengthen its evaluation framework.”

One recommendation made was using league tables to highlight who is and isn’t taking consumer care seriously. Alongside this, strengthening consumer rights and ‘radically’ improving data collection were also suggested. 

Is the UKGC about to undergo a change in funding? 

In the report, the following was also said. 

“Under the current regime, consolidation within the industry results in a reduction in the Gambling Commission’s budget regardless of the impact on the gambling yield. The Gambling Commission told the Committee that a recent merger could result in a reduction of £400,000 in the Commission’s budget. In contrast to the Commission’s £19m a year, the gambling industry has agreed to spend £60m to treat problem gamblers.  

“The government has approached other public health issues on the basis that prevention is better than cure. However, the Department was unwilling to accept the premise that increasing the Commission’s budget to prevent harm would be preferable to spending on treating problem gamblers.   

“The Commission and the Department are currently looking at how to improve the regulatory funding model. The Department recognises that it can change licence fees through secondary legislation, but argues that some aspects would require primary legislation, particularly if the Commission needed additional powers.”

The Betting and Gaming Council (BGC) responded after criticisms were made of the UKGC and DCMS. They warned that excessive regulation could cause more harm than good. 

The industry is working hard to raise standards to help problem gamblers and those at risk, though we note that both the Regulator and the Government have made it clear that there is no evidence that problem gambling has increased.  

“Our industry is already heavily regulated. We mustn’t drive customers to offshore, black market, illegal operators that don’t have any of our safeguards, and we do want to see more action taken against the unregulated industry.   

“We are committed to making more voluntary changes and driving up safer gambling standards. We will work with the Gambling Commission and the Government to achieve this, particularly on the forthcoming Review of the Gambling Act.”