Tim Miller: Fairness and affordability will lead UKGC’s new corporate strategy

Tim Miller, the Executive Director of the UK Gambling Commission (UKGC) leading research and policy development, has outlined the regulator’s principal objectives which will spearhead its new ‘Corporate Strategy’.   

The first UKGC executive to speak following this month’s abrupt departure of chief executive Neil McArthur, Miller addressed industry executives and wider business stakeholders at the CMS Law Gambling Conference.

The Commission’s corporate strategy is recognised as the regulator’s strategic approach to governing the industry’s commercial interests whilst balancing consumer safeguards and protections for the benefit of society.

Launched during 2018, the Commission implemented its corporate strategy in light of consumer changes driven by gambling’s digitisation and the sector’s make-up being radically altered by mass M&A.  

During the three-year period, Miller underscored that the Commission was driven by the urgent mandate of its National Strategic Assessment to make ‘gambling fairer and safer’.

The UKGC’s policy development was therefore focused on improving compliance, regulatory interventions, technical standards and eliminating ‘opaque terms and conditions’.

With regards to its business policy directives, Miller stated that the Commission had to constantly evaluate an ‘evolving picture’ in which the regulator was forced to prioritise its actions.

Following a review of policy developments and UK gambling’s regulatory conditions, the UKGC will prioritise the following objectives, forming its new corporate strategy:  

  • Protecting children and vulnerable people from being harmed by gambling
  • Developing a fairer marketplace
  • Keeping crime out of gambling
  • Optimising returns to good causes from the National Lottery
  • Improving gambling regulation and informing consumers.  

In support of its new strategy, the UKGC said it will shortly publish a ‘Business Plan’, outlining “the key milestones we plan to complete and address during 2021-22”.

Leading the Commission’s research and policy units, Miller noted the significant volume of response to the UKGC’s consultation on consumer safeguards, with stakeholders wanting to know where the Commission plans to go next on customer interactions.

He replied that the Commission’s immediate focus would be on strengthening the compliance rules in relation to operators carrying out their customer affordability due-diligence duties.

On affordability, the UKGC’s casework had seen “example after example of operators who have allowed people to gamble amounts that are clearly unaffordable with very limited or no customer interaction until a very late stage”.

“We are not talking about grey areas here. We are talking about clearly unaffordable levels of gambling,” Miller remarked.

“It perhaps will come as no surprise that our business plan features work that addresses the risk of harm from gambling. Indeed the last couple of years have seen the debate around gambling regulation rightly dominated by such issues. We make no apologies for focussing the industry’s attention on this.”

Miller underscored that the Commission will continue its collaborative approach with licensed operators with regards to countering black market threats and strengthening the industry’s all-around AML protections.

Echoing the industry’s ‘evolving picture’ dynamics, he stated that operator feedback was needed on how the industry will be reshaped once society moves past the pandemic.

“We will not move at the pace of the slowest. We won’t use some positive data to take our foot off the accelerator. We won’t be distracted from the immediate challenges and risks by the longer-term policy debate. We will keep building momentum.” Miller concluded.

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