It seems the UK’s regulatory Gambling Commission (UKGC)–long dismissed as a “paper tiger” by anti-gaming activists, mostly notably the cabal of MPs clustered around the All Party Parliamentary Group for Gambling Related Harm–is finally earning its stripes.
Top civil servant Andrew Rhodes, who was confirmed as the commission’s new CEO last month, May, has brought vigour and clarity to the organisation that will soon forge profound change across Britain’s multi-billion pound gambling industry.
Rhodes, formerly Director General Operations at the Department for Work and Pensions and a top gun at the DVLA (Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency) and Food Standards Agency, has laid out his get-tough stall in short order.
With the publication of the government White Paper into reform of the nation’s outdated 2005 Gambling Act imminent, the new UKGC boss has unequivocally warned the industry:
“Without waiting for what the White Paper may bring, I can give you an overview on what we think needs to happen to make gambling in Great Britain as fair and safe as it can be — and what our next steps are to achieving that,” said Rhodes.
“[The UKGC] will not be complacent and will clearly set out the standards we expect.
“We will escalate the penalties for failings if we don’t see the industry start to consistently live up to our standards.
“We intend to ramp up our enforcement work and the penalties that come with it.
“Operators who aren’t compliant are not just letting their customers down or their own businesses, they are letting down the entire sector,” he affirmed.
Britain is already the largest regulated online market in the world, noted the UKGC chief.
Almost half the nation’s adult population lays a bet or gambles at least once a month, according to some statistics.
Of these “regular” bettors, between 0.2 and 0.7 per cent are deemed problem gamblers.
It is an absolute UKGC priority, stressed Rhodes, to acquire more accurate data on this key issue, especially amid the current financially uncertainty.
“Better data is needed for both the Commission and operators to make better decisions,” he said.
“No one in the gambling sector should believe that the Gambling Commission will accept waiting for the White Paper as an excuse not to tackle problems now.
“We don’t accept that. We don’t accept that anything should come before making sure you are trading as fair and as safe as possible. All the rest should be secondary.
“Every gambling business has a role to play to prevent gambling harm and this guidance makes clear what we expect to see, which will be supported with enforcement action should we need it,” Rhodes concluded.