The UK Gambling Commission has “the leadership to meet the challenges and opportunities ahead,” asserted Sarah Gardner, deputy chief executive officer of the regulator, at this week’s 2021 Annual Bacta Convention.

Following reflections on “quick, uncompromising and necessary action” taken during recent times during the challenges times endured by many, Gardner calls for closer industry collaboration amid a declaration that the UKGC “is coming out of this year more focussed than ever before on our remit to make gambling fairer, safer and crime free”.

“The Gambling Commission will continue to be relentless in investigating and taking action against operators who don’t meet our standards,” Gardner continued after touching upon the £100m in penalty packages, and ten operator licenses revoked, that has been evidenced since 2017/18.

For industry standards to be elevated further still, it is noted, quicker progress can be delivered “if we can collaborate with the industry as opposed to merely punishing failings”.

“And all of those improvements started from a call for collaboration. This is the relationship we want with industry in the pursuit of ever fairer and safer gambling,” Gardner stated.

“We want to get to that, we want to get to a place where the level of harm caused by gambling is reducing, helped by a constructive and collaborative relationship with industry.”

Adding: “First, whether we take a view that this is good or not, gambling is normal. Some will attack that statement I know and have done previously, but that doesn’t change the situation. 

“Over 40 per cent of the population gambled in the last four weeks. That’s tens of millions, buying a lottery ticket, playing in AGCs, going to the bingo and all the many other ways people gamble.”

However, “gambling is normal, but harm must not be” Gardner clarified, stating “another fact we shouldn’t shy away from is that gambling – like other businesses – exists to make a profit, taking money from its customers”.

Here, statistics were cited that “at over £14bn, gambling in Great Britain is the size of British agriculture. £450 per second was lost by people gambling in Great Britain in 2019/20”.

“We will continue to work to drive the levels of harm down. And unfortunately, there are still far too many operators not abiding by our rules. 

“That is not acceptable. We want a constructive relationship with the industry. But it must be on the basis of compliance. For all the good efforts made, including by people in this room today, we still see too many instances of things that everyone agrees are failings and breaches we should not see. 

“These failings are not historic – they are happening now and they are causing harm. I said earlier that the Commission is more focussed than ever before on our remit to make gambling fairer, safer and crime free and you will see that in our priorities as we go into 2022”.

Concluding: “The end of 2021 sees the gambling industry in Great Britain and the Gambling Commission in a very different place to where we were two years ago. But despite all the problems and hardships, we have made progress. 

“Whilst we all hope the next two years are less challenging than the last, they will no doubt still have their moments. But the message I want you to take away today is a simple one. 

“Whatever else changes, the work to make gambling in Great Britain fairer, safer and crime free continues. 

“We are more focussed than ever on our core purpose and our desire to collaborate with all of you who share the same ambition continues. The evidence suggests that we are on the right track. So let’s keep on going together.”