SBC News UKGC lauds success of multi-stakeholder approach to combat illegal gambling 

UKGC lauds success of multi-stakeholder approach to combat illegal gambling 

 The UK Gambling Commission (UKGC) stands by its long-term strategy to combat illegal online gambling, as a regulatory objective of the Gambling Review’s White Paper.

“The Commission’s approach is to identify and undertake high-impact interventions to disrupt unlicensed operators targeting consumers in Great Britain, all with a view to making it difficult to provide illegal gambling at scale,” stated CEO Andrew Rhodes at the Westminster Media Forum on 13 May 2024.

The strategy has involved the Commission engaging with the National Crime Agency (NCA), Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit (PIPCU), and His Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC) to increase intelligence-led disruptions that impede unlicensed operators from engaging with British consumers.

Cooperation with regulatory counterparts is highly effective, as the Commission has eliminated illegal Facebook lotteries, working in tandem with HMRC and imposing penalties of £600,000 on unlicensed organisers.

Combating illegal gambling, the Commission has changed its approach to focus on “upstream disruptions,” addressing regulatory violations before they escalate into more significant issues impacting consumers.

A proactive approach sees the Commission no longer reacting to illegal activities after they occur; instead, the regulator aims to prevent illicit activities at an early stage, effectively “upstreaming” interventions in the chain of events.

By upstreaming interventions, the Commission prioritises actions that are “risk-focused and likely to have a significant impact, causing substantial disruption to illegal gambling operations. The strategy enables the UKGC to restrict supply and access to illegal sites at scale.

We use intelligence and software programs to identify those websites with the largest Great Britain footprint or profile and focus on those which pose the highest risk, especially those websites and affiliates which target vulnerable consumers such as Gamstop self-excluded players.”

The Commission is strengthened by multifaceted actions designed to disrupt the operations of illegal websites. Actions include issuing cease-and-desist notices, collaborating with ISPs and financial institutions, coordinating with search engines and social media to block content, and pursuing legal actions against egregious offenders.

Enhanced enforcement measures undertaken in 2023 included issuing 452 cease-and-desist and disruption notices, which resulted in the closure of 79 online websites and 133 Facebook pages.

Meanwhile, in just the first month of 2024, the Commission sent out 98 notices, with 39 instances leading to successful disruptions, demonstrating a significant increase in regulatory action. 

Furthermore, the Commission has substantially amplified its efforts over the years, with more than a 500% increase in enforcement activities since 2022 and tripling the success rate of disrupting illegal websites.

Concluding his address, Rhodes noted: “The work to combat illegal activity never ends, and we clearly understand that. As the Government’s White Paper made clear, we still need more powers in this space. Some of these powers are on course to be delivered by the current Criminal Justice Bill, which is progressing through Parliament, but we are confident that we are making progress.”

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