The UK Gambling Commission Releases Strategy for 2018-2021

Last month, the UK Gambling Commission unveiled its strategy for fairer and safer gambling for 2018 to 2021. We’re a little late on the take here, but this is a long-term strategy vision and it will be valid for years to come.

The Gambling Commission announced in the report that it is aiming to improve in five key areas over the next three years. These “priority areas” include:

  • Protecting the interests of consumers
  • Preventing harm to consumers and the public
  • Raising standards in the gambling market
  • Optimising returns to good causes from lotteries
  • Improving the way the Commission regulates

In a video summarizing the strategy, the Gambling Commission stated it will work with those involved in the industry, regulatory partners and anyone else with a “shared interest” in keeping gambling fair and safe.

The full strategy report explains that the ultimate goal is make the gambling industry “fairer and safer for consumers.” From there, the strategy report lists the five key areas in which it wants to see improvement and layouts out a roadmap explaining how the Gambling Commission will make those improvements happen.

Protecting the Interests of Consumers

The overarching theme in the section of the report dedicated to protecting the interests of consumers revolves around information and transparency. In the report, the UKGC notes that “information currently available to help consumers understand the products and services they use, apply their rights and how to access help is difficult to find, and generic in nature.”

The UKGC plans to find ways to improve consumer knowledge of gambling products, risks of gambling and when and how to seek help. The UKGC also wishes to find ways to give consumers more power and methods of control to manage their gambling. This will involve requiring operators to provide new and useful tools and services for customers.

Additionally, the UKGC wishes to promote greater transparency, strengthen rules regarding unfair and misleading practices, penalize operators who fail to give customers the tools and information they need and to ensure customers have access to effective dispute resolution services.

Preventing Harm to Consumers and the Public

One of the more surprising takeaways from the report is notice from the UKGC that it is considering applying a levy on operators if fundraising goals for the support of gambling addiction treatment and education are not met.

The UKGC notes that it has historically called on the industry to support problem gambling initiatives, but has found the industry’s response lacking. The UKGC reminds operators that it has the power to assess a levy on all operators if the industry continues to fail in meeting these targets.

Raising Standards in the Gambling Market

One of the least surprising things to come from the report is a suggestion that the UK Gambling Commission (UKGC) will be cracking down further in 2018 and beyond. This follows a stretch of near-constant negative media attention over the latter part of 2017.

In the portion of the report explaining how the UKGC will go about raising standards in the gambling market, it says the UKGC plans to:

“hold to account those who do not attempt to understand the risks of gambling or fail to put in place effective mitigations, are deliberately or negligently non-compliant and who do not take account of lessons learned. We will use the full range of our enforcement powers, and develop our use of sanctions, to ensure these are well targeted and provide credible deterrence.”

Optimising Returns to Good Causes from Lotteries

Overall, the UKGC sounds pleased with the lottery sector and the progress licensed lottery operators have made in contributing to good causes. In the report, the UKGC notes that the National Lottery contributed roughly £1.7 billion to good causes while licensed society lotteries contributed another £230 million to good causes over the year ending September 2016.

The UKGC says it wishes to build on this success while continuing to ensure lotteries remain fair and safe for consumers. The UKGC will also be watching developments in instant-win games which have increased in prominence and which are beginning to blur the lines between traditional lotteries and other gambling products.

Moving forward, the UKGC will consider ways to improve the transparency of contributions made by lotteries to good causes. It will continue to monitor and regulate lotteries with the goals being to continue to protect the consumer and support good causes.

Improve the Way We Regulate

In the final pages of the report, the UKGC turns an inward eye to consider what it can do and improve upon to become a more effective regulator. The UKGC states that its job is to provide consumer protection, keep crime out of gambling, prevent match-fixing and much more.

To that end, the UKGC states it aims “to be a risk-based, evidence-led and outcomes-focused regulator. To further this, we see a need for greater investment in our capabilities as a regulator, such as in relation to date – what we require, and how we manage and use it.”

The UKGC wishes to live up to four key values: to be fair, accountable, professional and constructive. Although the UKGC has warned operators it will be cracking down on unfair and misleading practices, the UKGC also wishes to engage with operators to build partnerships, create tools, effectively communicate expectations and assist the industry wherever possible in meeting these goals.

Industry Statistics

The report concludes with a collection of industry statistics. Some of the most interesting include:

  • £13.8 billion total net spend on gambling in Britain (of which 31% was online gambling)
  • Online gambling spending was broken up as follows: 51% on slots, 43% on betting and 27% on casino
  • 8,788 betting shops operate in the UK
  • 583 bingo premises operate in the UK
  • 148 casinos operate in the UK
  • 106,678 people are directly employed by the GB-facing industry
  • 18% of the population gambles online
  • 63% of the population has gambled in the past year
  • There are 32 million gamblers in the UK
  • 2 million of these are at-risk for problem gambling
  • 1 in 10 men aged 16-34 are at-risk
  • 400,000 problem gamblers