The Parliamentary All Party Betting & Gaming Group states that the Gambling Commission “has become imbibed with an overtly anti-gambling ideology” and is “actively seeking to ‘get the industry’”.
The results of an investigation into the competence and effectiveness of the regulator says that the UKGC is “seriously under-performing,” has acted beyond its powers, is in breach of “almost all the regulator code,” and “is incompetent and ineffective in its duties to the industry it regulates”.
The APBGG adds that it “demands a significant change in the Gambling Commission’s culture, strategy and practices,” which it says “will destroy one of the most reputable gambling industry’s in the world”.
The results add a belief that the Commission is offering “an incredibly poor level of service often combined with incompetence and a basic lack of knowledge” of the industry that it regulates.
“From the evidence we have seen, we believe that the Gambling Commission has turned into what appears to be an industry-funded anti-gambling activist group,” a media statement regarding the investigation’s results found.
Furthermore, in addition to airing its aforementioned concerns the APBGG states that “unless the Gambling Commission grasps the opportunity of having a new chair and CEO and resetting its strategy, focus and culture,” it will “force tens of thousands of people, some extremely vulnerable, into the illegal black market”.
Scott Benton MP, co-chair of the APBGG, explained: ‘As co-chair of the All Party Betting and Gaming Group, I am truly shocked to reveal so much evidence of bad practice by the Gambling Commission over the years.
“We have been hearing stories for years, but to see it in black and white is pretty stark. To think that members of our gambling industry, one of the most reputable in the world, who pay the Commission’s wages, have had to suffer such poor service from their regulator is of the utmost concern.
“Especially as it acts like it is an anti gambling group, whose sole purpose is to destroy the industry. The Commission has been captured by ideological zealots who can’t seem to understand that the majority of citizens of this country enjoy their gambling and do so happily.
“We of course want to support those who suffer from gambling addiction but this shouldn’t be done so through excessive and unnecessary over-regulation that will force many into the arms of the black market.
“We call on the Commission and its sponsor, DDCMS, to make changes fast or we fear for the worst. As co-chair of the All Party Betting and Gaming Group, I pledge that our group will do everything in its power to keep up the pressure on the Commission and DDCMS as to do nothing, to ignore the contents of our report, is to sentence the British gambling industry to certain demise and thousands of people into the trauma of being pushed into the black market.”
In response, a spokesperson for the UKGC issued the following statement to The Guardian: “Some sections of the industry are never going to be content with a regulator which continually pushes for safer gambling.”
To solve the perceived problems, the APBGG detailed five key recommendations to legislators and the public, with the parliamentarians asserting that the UKGC’s role needs to be more clearly defined.
As an unelected body, the legislators argued, the regulator should not have the responsibility to “weigh up the benefits of decreased problem gambling numbers versus economic dereliction and an increased illegal gambling,” which it says should instead be left to elected legislators.
Moreover, in response to the UKGC’s actions in “flagrant breach of practically all the Regulators Code,” the APBGG asserts that the government’s better regulation executive to undertake an audit of the Commission and a Queen’s Counsel should be commissioned, to undertake an independent investigation of the authority’s enforcement process.
It also says that the DCMS should take on the responsibility for the gambling industry’s complaints process, as the MPs believe that operators are “too scared to use” the current system in place whilst any failings on the Commission’s part are not detected.
Finally, the group concluded that a distinction needs to be made between ‘high risk’ and ‘low risk’ gambling operators in order that the “level of regulation can be made proportionate,” arguing that this would be an ideal outcome of the Gambling Act overhaul.
Of utmost importance the APBGG demands that DCMS answer the question of whether its the “Gambling Commission’s job to actively seek a significant reduction in the number of problem gamblers?” – as a statutory obligation of its review of the 2005 Gambling Act.