In an interview with John Hagan of the Harris Hagan law firm at ICE, Williams revealed that the regulator now believes it has total coverage of the UK market. She said: “Nearly all the 150 plus overseas operators we had identified legally selling into Britain applied for, and obtained, continuation licences, plus a few more we hadn’t spotted. The few that didn’t have actively withdrawn and, where necessary, are blocking British players.
“We now have over 370 operating licensees including the 176 now trading on continuation licences compared to 200 before Nov 1st, but critically covering nearly 100% of the domestic market instead of less than 15%. Despite nearly 90% of applications being incomplete and the inevitable Xmas interruption, we have already determined over 10% and many more are nearing completion. A handful have been warned they may not get a licence if they don’t provide the remaining information very quickly.”
Williams said that the Commission was pretty au fair with most of the remote industry before the change in regulation, although it was surprised by the ‘lack of readiness’ on the part of so many operators who were seeking licences. “This reflected in part a lack of focus or engagement on the part of many senior managers at what exactly they needed to do and what changes were needed to comply with Commission licence conditions and codes. In some cases no effort had been made to amend terms and conditions; for example, they still referred to the overseas regulator instead of the Gambling Commission.
“It was clear that neither regulation nor the licensing objectives featured that prominently in those operators’ minds. In some cases of course it may have reflected some wishful thinking that the whole thing would be scuppered by the Judicial Review.”
Williams also went into detail about the process that the Commission envisages should it be discovered that an unlicensed operator is taking UK bets.
She explained: “First point – do they have evidence that the operator is either advertising or transacting with someone in Britain, for example an email exchange or screenshot. If so, we send a cease and desist notice while considering if we have any other levers, for example, licensees currently contracting with them or overseas regulators who would be interested in their illegal activities. This is more effective where the operator might want to get a licence from someone reputable at some stage.
“We tell the payment providers and main advertisers and talk to HMRC as they would also be avoiding tax – if the server is in Britain we may consider approaching the service provider to stop dealing with an illegal operator. If after all that they are still active we have the option to prosecute individuals.”
Read the full interview here