UKGC ‘unrelenting action’ makes expectations clear - Ian Angus

UKGC ‘unrelenting action’ makes expectations clear – Ian Angus

In his keynote speech at the Westminster Media Forum, the UK Gambling Commission’s (UKGC) Head of Policy, Ian Angus, gave the industry little indication of what to expect from the government’s upcoming gambling White Paper.

This is, of course, likely because Angus himself has very little information on the Gambling Act review’s outcomes apart from what has been speculated in the national media, with the full judgements of the white paper still locked away in the halls of the DCMS in Westminster.

The long arm of the law

What Angus did give away, however, was the Commission’s future policy stance on non-compliance amid a backdrop of heavy penalties against several big-name operators, with firms being strictly reminded of their social responsibility obligations throughout the course of the review.

“Where we find operators failing to meet our standards we will continue to take unrelenting action,” he said, speaking just a couple of weeks after William Hill was fined a record £19.2m for historic social responsibility and money laundering failures.

“We think the action we are taking makes clear what our expectations are. And at the volume we’re now broadcasting them, we are pretty sure those operators who were still deaf to them a year or two ago, are now getting the message.

“Driving up the standards of gambling operators through our compliance and enforcement work is an important focus and will remain so. But we also want to work with the industry to improve protections for consumers as well as improving the evidence base and our regulation in general.”

Looking at the stats – as well as casting our minds back to recent memories of the past year – it is obvious that the UKGC has been taking its regulatory enforcement remit far more seriously.

Angus observed that since the start of 2022, a total of £76m in fines has been issued as a result of 27 enforcement cases, in comparison to £1.7m from three investigations during the 2016/17 financial year.

He continued: “The reason we’ve been forced to escalate our enforcement action like this in recent years is because each failing is not just a failing against our rules, it’s a failing for ordinary people, some of whom have suffered terrible harms as a result.”

Essentially, Angus reminded the industry of something the UKGC has been hammering home for some time. As CEO Andrew Rhodes put it in a speech earlier this year, the regulator will not allow the repeated delays to the White Paper to be used as an excuse for continued malpractice.

In pursuit of ‘regulation for all’

Reiteration of previously outlined UKGC stances was a common theme throughout Angus’ speech, such as reaffirming the need for the industry to collaborate with other sectors.

For example, he reflected on how the Commission “challenged the industry” to work more with the technology sector and the Commissioner’s Office on the development of the Single Customer View (SCV).

On this topic, the UKGC has been working with the Betting and Gaming Council (BGC) on development of the SCV, which Angus believes will “mitigate the risk of serious gambling harms”.

Cooperation with various stakeholders and parties will “not stop at the border”, however. Angus outlined that working with international regulators is also a key aspect of the UKGC’s current remit.

This can take on heightened importance in two ways – firstly, various national markets across the world are currently in the process of or have recently been regulated, such as Ireland, the Netherlands, Germany and Nordic countries in Europe alone.

The UKGC may take on board lessons from these countries as it strives to share best practice. Secondly, some of the operators which have found themselves on the receiving end of the Commission’s regulatory baton are active across various international sectors, such as William Hill, Entain and 888, to name a few.

“Where strong relationships already exist between regulators, we are increasingly seeing the bad practice and bad behaviour of some licensed and unlicensed operators being shared and discussed,” Angus remarked.

“And that helps us look at those operators’ practices and operations in our own jurisdictions. To be clear: No operator should want to be in this position. No operator should want to be the subject of discussion between regulators in different parts of the world.”

Meanwhile, an area of focus for the UKGC’s work with operators themselves is on account management, but Angus again reminded firms that where non-compliance occurs, ‘uncompromising action’ will follow.

With clarity on the regulatory future of the UK betting and gaming space apparently just days away, Angus emphasised that ‘better data, better research and better evidence’ will lead to better regulation.

The Commission’s long-term goal as a contributor to the ‘evidence-led approach’ taken by the architects of the Gambling Act review is to develop ‘regulation that works for all’, the body’s Head of Policy asserted.

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