Tim Miller, Executive Director of the UK Gambling Commission (UKGC), has warned industry leadership to adjust to a ‘new normal of highest expectations’ in how the gambling sector will be governed.
Delivering the keynote speech at the ‘Know Now 2021’ conference on social responsibility for gambling operators, Miller reflected on the work of the UKGC during a frenzied 18-month pandemic period, in which the regulator was forced to track changes in consumer behaviour and new risks exposed by changed circumstances.
UKGC teams were praised for achieving policy progress ‘in the face of once in a century challenges’, maintaining the Commission’s agenda to deliver new LCCP requirements on VIP rules, the design of games/products and new Ad-Tech protections.
As the Commission begins to take tentative steps out of its pandemic approach, Miller noted that its policy focus would revert to priorities on customer interaction and affordability.
Addressing current LCCP requirements on remote operators, Miller reflected that “the evidence from casework was clear”.
“We continue to see example after example of operators who have allowed people to gamble amounts that clearly place customers at risk of harm with very limited or no customer interaction until a very late stage,” he said.
Backing the Commission’s findings from regulatory enforcement and casework, Miller stated that operator failings could not be attributed to ‘grey areas’ in LCCP rules.
“We are talking about significant binge gambling or clearly unaffordable levels of gambling without action being taken. Can anyone in this room seriously justify allowing a new customer to lose £10,000 within minutes without any checks or interaction? Its issues such as these that we are seeking to address in our customer interaction proposals.
“Going back to our Licensing Objectives, the Gambling Commission has a duty ‘to aim to permit gambling’ as long as it is in line with the Licensing Objectives. But we will not permit operators to continue to place their commercial objectives ahead of customer protection.”
Criticism of the Commission was acknowledged, as Miller added that the regulator would be focussed on ‘raising its own standards’ as a remit of the government’s review of the 2005 Gambling Act and in welcoming a new leadership team.
The Gambling Act’s review of the Commission’s resources was timely, given the Commission’s future challenges to protect the industry against black-market threats and its long term objective to create a single customer viewpoint.
Miller continued: “Like all public bodies, we should strive to be a high performing, efficient and effective organisation to deliver the important duty that Parliament has given us.
“Scrutiny makes for stronger regulation and we will continue to work with Government, our fellow regulators and others to continue raising our own standards further. And I know that our new Chief Executive, Andrew Rhodes, and new Chair, Marcus Boyle, will help bring fresh energy to that.”
Of significance, Miller reflected on an NAO assessment of the Commission’s regulatory duties, in which the government agency “had rightly challenged us was on the way we use data as a regulatory tool”.
Miller stated that the Commission would require further investment to strengthen its data procedures governing exchanges between the regulator and licensed incumbents.
“Historically, we have needed to carry out huge amounts of quality assurance on the data provided through the regulatory returns process. Returns have been late, or sometimes not delivered at all, with many returns being full of errors.
“Despite this being an LCCP requirement, some operators have thought it acceptable to, in effect, outsource the quality assurance of their data to the regulator. This is not something that can continue.”