UKGC CEO Sarah Harrison

UKGC CEO Sarah Harrison Reiterates Fairer Gaming Initiative at Birmingham Conference

The United Kingdom Gambling Commission’s CEO, Sarah Harrison, has again hammered home the UK gambling regulator’s commitment to “fairer and safer gambling,” following up on a directive-laden report issued by the UKGC last month.

Harrison, speaking last week at the UKGC’s annual “Raising Standards” conference, fired a number of shots over the bow of the gaming industry, saying that operators continue to fall far short of their social responsibility to consumers and to the public at large in providing a safe and fair gaming environment.

“We are at a tipping point,” said Harrison, “and those that do not share this commitment, those who do not deliver for the consumer, will find themselves in an uncomfortable position, with their future in this industry increasingly in peril.”

Harrison pointed out the current environment has meant added public examination and debate, for and about the industry. “The last 12 months have brought greater scrutiny to bear on the sector than ever before,” said Harrison. “In the run up-to the October publication of the government consultation [in which a series of responsibility-strengthened initiatives were announced] we have witnessed increased interest in gambling from politicians, the press and most importantly, from the public.”

Harrison then chastised the industry at large, with the representatives of many prominent operators also in attendance. As she said, “We want this [UK] market to be the best in the world – the safest in the world, providing exceptional customer service, with a culture that supports appropriately high levels of protection.

“Last year, I stressed the need for action, I urged you as an industry not to wait for a crisis to happen that shakes the very foundation of customer trust. I encouraged you to act and demonstrate to consumers and the public that your interest in their needs and concerns is genuine.

“Did that happen? Looking honestly at your businesses, with open minds, have you done enough? I think the need is more pronounced now than it has ever been, and the bald facts are that you haven’t done enough to demonstrate to us that you’re there yet.”

Harrison did add that some operators had indeed made significant forward strides, even if the headlines have been dominated of late by examples of intentional noncompliance by select operators. The worst of those stories have seen companies accept large-scale deposits and wagers from addictive gamblers who had stolen massive amounts from others to feed their habits. In response, the UKGC and the English court system have made it a point to punish operators who ignore KYC (Know Your Customer) protocols in the name of corporate profit.

Harrison went on to reiterate the five key points announced in the UKGC’s latest three-year strategic plan. Those points are as follows:

  • To protect the interests of consumers;
  • To prevent harm to consumers and the public;
  • To raise standards in the gambling market;
  • To optimize returns to good causes from lotteries;
  • To improve the way we regulate.

She then went on to explain in further detail how each of those initiatives is likely to play out, offering an additional series of bullet-point guidelines and explanations to her Birmingham audience. According to the UKGC’s leader, regulators can expect these steps from the Gambling Commission:

  • We [referring to the UKGC as a regulatory body] will put more power in the hands of the consumer;
  • We will push the industry to deliver a high quality and fair consumer experience;
  • We will make gambling safer;
  • We will push for gambling-related harm to be recognized and resourced like other public health issues;
  • We will build on and accelerate the progress that [some] operators are making;
  • We will be prepared to intervene on a precautionary basis;
  • We will challenge lotteries to deliver for good causes now and in the future;
  • We will live our own values;
  • And, over the life of this strategy, we will be increasingly data and evidence led.

“We have ambitious plans for the industry, our partners and for ourselves,” summarized Harrison.” Over the next three years we want to make gambling fairer and safer for consumers, and the wider public. To date, the pace of change across the industry has been too slow and that can’t continue. The time to act is now and we want to provide more support, help and advice to operators to get it right. And we are not alone in that.

“Our call to action extends to partners and others who have an interest in this market. A call not only to challenge from the side lines but to stand ready to work with those in this industry who genuinely want to make a difference. Where operators are willing to improve, we will work to support you. We will look closely at how we can help and foster collaboration.”

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