The UK Gambling Commission’s interim chief executive, Andrew Rhodes, claimed that that the gambling industry is “no way near” living in an “ideal world”, stressing that there is “too much harm from gambling as a result of too little compliance amongst too many operators”.
Speaking at GambleAware’s annual conference, Rhodes stated that the Commission supported the conference’s key theme of ‘deeper collaboration to prevent gambling harms’.
However, Rhodes underlined that the Commission had witnessed an intense period of escalating enforcement on compliance in which his department had recovered over £100m from penalty enforcements and revoked 10 licences – not accounting for licence surrenders prior to investigations.
Yet of utmost concern to Rhodes were the number of reoffending companies which had conceded regulatory settlements rather than being fined. He added: “We are seeing the same companies committing the same offences for second or even third times.
“It’s a recidivist behaviour, and I have a concern that those operators are starting to see fines as a compliance measure, that is something that we are not prepared to tolerate.”
Rhodes acknowledged that collaboration had helped the UKGC secure positive outcomes on reforming VIP schemes, improving game designs and introducing new ad-tech controls, key objectives of the Commission’s National Strategy to reduce gambling harms.
On this, Rhodes stated that stakeholders should reflect on “what the data is and isn’t telling us”.
He continued: “Today the gambling sector is roughly the same size as the agricultural industry. Nearly half the population gambles in one way or another during each month.
“Operators yield £14.1bn after winnings are paid. That means that the industry can take £450 pounds per second from consumers within the UK. It is unbelievable to conceive. But what is more, if we take out the National Lottery, five per cent of customers account for 90 per cent of gross gambling yield.”
On enforcement, Rhodes stated that the “penalties were no substitute for raising standards”. Reflecting on operators’ concerns that tougher enforcement would benefit the black market, he shared that leadership concerns were overstated.
“We are not going to be deflected away from that mission, in some sort of race to the bottom, because others are worse. That’s the whole point of having a regulated market.
“We are aware that if you introduce the wrong friction, you can drive consumers to the black market, but we are nowhere near that. Our regulatory posture has changed because there are too many cases that make everyone blush… and that has to stop.”