Betting Companies Outpaced the Gambling Commission

March 5, 2020 John Isaac

The UK’s government stated in one of its reports that the watchdog is having trouble protecting people from gambling and that the Gambling Commission is outpaced and outgunned by betting brands.

Man holding a phone

Online gambling ©Free-Photos/Pixabay

The National Audit Office, which tracks the performance of public bodies, stated that the regulator has failed to adjust to technological changes referring to online and mobile gaming. According to them, the financial limitations have hindered the authority, which has a £19 million annual budget, however, is overseeing a sector that last year took £11.3 billion from punters. Its decision arrives after the government chose to amend the Gambling Act of 2005, after repeated controversies that cast doubt on the resolve of the industry to rein in destructive gambling. Heavy-profile situations include disclosures about the use of so-called “VIP schemes” by the industry, as well as questions about the effect of gambling ads on young and vulnerable people and its ties to football.

Whilst the commission has messed up the level of fines it imposes, from £ 1.4 million in 2014-15 to almost £ 20 million the previous year, it has failed to keep up with changing trends. These include a 56 percent increase in campaign spending between 2014 and 2017, mostly through the internet and social media rather than television channels. The NAO also highlighted the rise in the ratio of online gambling that takes place by mobile phone, from 23% in 2015 to 44% in 2018.

Harris Wants McArthur to Resign

“The risks to gamblers are changing as technologies develop. Yet the Gambling Commission is a small regulator in a huge and fast-evolving industry. While the commission has made improvements, gambling regulation lags behind the industry” – noted Gareth Davies, head of the NAO.

The NAO called on the Online, Entertainment, Media and Sport (DCMS) commission and government to do more to enable businesses to meet minimum standards on gambling issue safety, providing “financial and reputational” opportunities.

It also addressed the issue of the funding model of the authority, by fees paid by licensed operators. Additionally, Carylin Harris, a Labour MP, commented that the Gambling Commission’s CEO Neil McArthur should in the light of the report. She explained that the commission is not doing its job well in terms of regulating the gambling industry especially the online sector for which she said that “seems to operate like the wild west”.

The Gambling Commission is Working on a Solution

There are approximately 395,000 problem gamblers, including 55,000 kids, with an additional 1.8 million considered “at-risk”. According to a study cited in the report, six additional people are affected by each abuser.

The report noted a lack of long-term efforts to measure the impact of gambling issues. Research has indicated that the economic cost could be as much as £1.2 billion per year, almost half of the £ 3 billion annual tax income from the sector.

On the other hand, the Gambling Commission defended itself that the NAO’s report highlights the constraints of their current funding arrangements present while they are developing proposals to discuss that with DCMS.

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