According to a freedom of information request submitted by the Gambling Business Group (GBG), the UK Gambling Commission (UKGC) has handed out £58.9m in financial sanctions over a five and a half year period.
The request, which was submitted by the GBG two years after the initial approach to the Commission, revealed that a total of £58,946,578 was sanctioned between June 2014 and December 2019.
The UKGC has used £756,997 from the funds to support its own investigation costs, while £24m of the sanctions has been returned to those who fell victim to illegal gambling activity.
The remaining £35m was divided up to agreed ‘socially responsible purposes’ as per the Commission’s ‘Statement of Principles’ used for determining financial penalties and reimbursements (June 2017).
GBG CEO, Peter Hannibal, said: “When we first wrote to the then Minister, Tracey Crouch and subsequently requested the information from the Commission, we were informed (by the Gambling Commission) that they did not consider it to be a priority.
“Under the terms of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (FOIA), citizens have the right to request information from any publicly-funded body and to get answers, which I’m pleased to say we have now received.
“Apart from the straightforward issue of why did it take an FOI request to get this information in the first place, it appears that the Commission does not have an independent process in place for checking whether the funds they have allocated to socially responsible purposes have been spent effectively and have delivered the impact intended.
Hannibal and GBG governance advise the UKGC to allocate penalty funds to ‘socially responsible purposes’, supporting the Commission’s 2020 guiding mandate on strengthening consumer protections.
“This is despite the fact that within the Commission’s own Statement of Principles there is an obligation to meaningfully evaluate the effectiveness of the spend on socially responsible purposes.
“One of the few things that all stakeholders in UK Gambling can agree on is that all RET financial resources are vitally important and should be spent where they are most effective in reducing and preventing harm.
“Whether these funds are raised through donations, or via a levy, or as in this case through financial penalties, all funds are equally valuable and should as a result be subject to effective valuation.”