UKGC Unveils Revised Regulatory Strategy
The United Kingdom Gambling Commission (UKGC) released yesterday its forward-looking strategy for regulating the gambling services offered to the country’s citizens over the next several years.
In a 28-page report titled simply, “Strategy 2018-2021: Making Gambling Fairer and Safer,” the UKGC addresses some on the core challenges facing the country in the years ahead. At the top of the list: Various forms of gambling are enjoyed by the UK’s populace in record-setting numbers, but there’s also a growing sense of industry mistrust: Over the past decade, consumer confidence that gambling is “fair” and that operators can be trusted has eroded by roughly a third, from 49% (in 2008) to 34% today.
It’s all led to the UKGC formulating its near-future agenda, even if it might be more idealistic hopes than reality. The report details the UKGC’s five-pronged plan to both continue reigning in miscreant operators while bolstering overall consumer confidence in the industry. Here are those top-line points:
Protecting the interests of consumers – for example, the Commission expects operators to intervene to make play safe and to protect consumers at risk. There will also be tougher and broader sanctions on operators (including lotteries) who fail to treat customers fairly and make gambling safe;
Preventing harm to consumers and the public – for example, the Commission expects consumers to be provided with more information about gambling and its risks, and better controls to manage their gambling;
Raising standards in the gambling market – for example, the Commission expects effective and independent arrangements to resolve consumer complaints and disputes;
Optimizing returns to good causes from lotteries – for example, the Commission will regulate in a way that delivers a healthy National Lottery for customers and good causes, and plan for the competition for a new licence to be awarded for 2023;
Improving the way the Commission regulates – for example, the Commission will improve the way it taps into consumer and public issues to inform action; it will help industry comply but take precautionary action where necessary, and will give independent and well evidenced advice to government on gambling and its impact.
— Source: Gambling Commission
Roughly 63% of the UK’s adult citizens gamble in some form, according to UKGC studies, fully qualifying it a mainstream activity. Dedicated gambling, including online wagering, draws a smaller audience, perhaps 20% spread across several markets, but therein lies the social need for the UKGC and other regulatory bodies to exist. As the UKGC report notes, “We exist to safeguard consumers and the wider public by ensuring that gambling is fair and safe.”
Dealing with that small minority of gamblers who demonstrate problem or addictive behavior and thus cause harm to themselves or others is only part of the UKGC’s social mission. As this report details, making sure that the UK gambling industry is transparent and fair to all consumers is also high on the list. The past couple of years have seen a spate of UKGC regulatory actions against a host of operators for violations spanning the gamut of consumer-protection issues, meaning the agency has put some teeth behind their talk. And, judging by the tone and reach of this report, there’s likely to be plenty more in the next few years, until perceived violators adjust their marketing and business strategies in line with the UKGC’s expectations.
According to Gambling Commission Chair Bill Moyes, “This is an ambitious strategy to deliver fairer and safer gambling over the next three years. We can only be successful in this by engaging with consumers and by working closely with all our regulatory partners and the industry.
“In the same way that this strategy challenges the industry, we also challenge ourselves – as the regulator – to deliver effective, targeted and innovative regulation.
“At the end of three years we expect to see an industry that strives continuously to raise their standards, treat customers fairly, and protect vulnerable people.”
These are wonderful ideals, but in reality, we’ll see how it all works out. The gambling industry has shown itself to be no better nor no worse than most other industries when it comes to regulatory compliance. To rephrase that, it’s more likely that UKGC-subject operators will comply to the extent that they are induced to comply in the face of strict penalty possibilities. A few of them will push the edges and continue to get spanked, and as to whether that increases or further erodes consumer confidence, it remains to be seen. Somewhere ahead in all this regulatory re-pacing a new equilibrium will be established.