Gardner, Root and Branch, Growing Better Safeguards for Problem Gamblers

The UK Gambling Commission, the UKGC to you and me, is often accused of being a toothless lion – or is it a dragon?

But–whatever its rep–the UKGC has doled out around £100 million in fines (US$141.5m/€116.2m) and revoked the licences of 10 errant operators since 2017.

Now Sarah Gardner, the commission’s new boss, wants to further the good work by entrenching safe gambling at the heart of her governance.

“Vulnerability is a topic that is often perceived quite narrowly,” she told a virtual audience in a major strategy speech at the recent Shard Financial Vulnerability Summit 2021.

“But it is increasingly being recognised across many sectors that the circumstances of vulnerability are complex and unique.”

With “reducing risks and tackling harms” the title of her manifesto, she continued:

“There are of course many reasons why an individual might be vulnerable to harm. Similarly, those that may appear vulnerable may not be.”

According to some studies, almost half UK adults, over 24 million people, are potentially vulnerable to gambling over-play and more, up to addiction.

Statistics of course are a blizzard.

But most experts agree that around 0.4 per cent of the population are at serious risk of harm from excessive gambling, a number that grows to 0.6 per cent, if covering those of us at moderate risk levels.

The UKGC has now launched a new three-year strategy built around safe and safer gambling, announced Gardner.

“Protecting vulnerable people from harm is one of our key licencing objectives and so understanding what makes people vulnerable to gambling-related harm is a key question for us [to] reduce risk and make gambling safer,” she told her listeners.

“No one [should be] in doubt that the Gambling Commission is totally focused on making gambling safer, fairer and crime-free.

“We want to stop gamblers from gambling clearly unaffordable amounts.”

And Gardner graphically illustrated the message by recounting the story of an online punter who lost £16,500 in seven hours (US$23,350/€19,170) before being contacted by banks with a query — and then only to confirm payment from a new card.

Sarah Gardner, Gambling Comission

Nevertheless, there has been some success said Gardner.

“Just a few years ago there was very little support for customers from their banks to help protect from gambling harm. Now 90 per cent of debit cards have gambling blocker options for customers.”

The three-year plan, Gardner outlined, will focus on five key objectives: protecting children and vulnerable people from gambling harms; a fair and transparent market, no crime in gambling, continued donations to charity and better regulation.

Published on: