UK MPs tell regulator to name and shame operators

It's the second parliamentary report in two weeks to call for a radical overhaul in UK gambling regulations.
It's the second parliamentary report in two weeks to call for a radical overhaul in UK gambling regulations.

Another parliamentary committee has heaped criticism on the UK regulator and added its voice to calls for an overhaul of gambling regulation.

UK.- Another parliamentary committee has attacked the Gambling Commission, as well as the government department that oversees it, and called for a radical overhaul of gambling regulation in the UK.

The House of Commons Public Accounts Committee, which investigates how government money is spent, has published a report that labels the government’s Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) as “complacent” and the Gambling Commission as “toothless, “slow” and “weak”.

The report claims both have “failed to adequately protect consumers” and have an “unacceptably weak understanding” of gambling harm and makes new proposals including calls for the Gambling Commission to publish league tables to “name and shame” operators that treat customers poorly.

It comes just a week after the UK parliament’s all-party group on gambling-related harm published a damning report calling on a radical overhaul of UK gambling regulations.

The new report from the Public Accounts Committee criticises the Gambling Commission for having no key performance indicators, and says that while the regulator has taken measures such as banning credit card gambling and increasing financial penalties, it has little understanding of their impact in measurable terms. 

It argues that in other areas of public health the government approach is that prevention is better than cure, but that in 2018-19 the UKGC took £19million in fees while the gambling industry agreed to spend £60million on treating problem gamblers.

The committee argues it would be preferable to increase the Commission’s budget to prevent gambling-related harm rather than have operators spend money on treating problem gamblers.

It also says the UKGC and the DCMS have failed to keep up with the sector as gambling moves online.

The Committee said: “The Committee finds the pace of change to ensure effective regulation has been slow and the penalties on companies which don’t effectively tackle problem gambling are weak.”

It has called for the UKGC to publish a “league table of gambling operators’ behaviour towards their customers, naming and shaming poor performers” as part of a more proactive approach.

It also says the Commission should urgently investigate the impact of fixed-odds betting under lottery legislation and “radically improve” data collection on its own performance. 

The report concludes that the DCMS “must urgently begin its long-planned review of the Gambling Act”, setting out a timetable within three months.

Meg Hillier MP, Chair of the Committee, said: “What has emerged in evidence is a picture of a torpid, toothless regulator that doesn’t seem terribly interested in either the harms it exists to reduce or the means it might use to achieve that.

“The Commission needs a radical overhaul: it must be quicker at responding to problems, update company licence conditions to protect vulnerable consumers and beef up those consumers’ rights to redress when it fails.

“The issue of gambling harm is not high up enough the Government’s agenda. The review of the Gambling Act is long overdue and an opportunity to see a step change in how problem gambling is treated. The Department must not keep dragging its feet, we need to see urgent moves on the badly needed overhaul of the system.

“Regulatory failure this comprehensive needs a quick pincer movement to expose the miscreants and strengthen those they harm.

The full report can be seen on the UK parliament website.

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