uk flag
Image: Shutterstock

The UK Gambling Commission’s Andrew Rhodes has stated that the gambling industry can achieve ‘better outcomes’ in regards to combating illegal gambling by working together.

The CEO of the UKGC talked about the illegal gambling market during a keynote speech earlier this week at the International Association of Gambling Regulators Conference in Gaborone, Botswana.

Specifically, Rhodes highlighted the work the UKGC has done since the commission began to receive additional funding to tackle and disrupt illegal gambling in its tracks.

Work includes increasing engagement levels with payment providers and financial institutions to stop the money moving, as well as collaborating with internet search and service providers to delist illegal operators from UK search results, geo-blocking their sites, and working with social media firms to take down illegal gambling promotion.

The commission has also been working with software licensees to stop UK access to popular products when their games appear on illegal sites, as well as engage with affiliate licensees when adverts on illegal sites are spotted to remove said adverts and encourage business relationship assessments.

In the last year, the UKGC has improved its enforcement actions by over 500 per cent between 2021-22 and 2022-23, more than doubled the number of successful positive disruption outcomes, intervened with social media to close down hundreds of illegal lotteries, as well as unlicensed gambling promotion by influencers.

Additional activity has included identifying websites with high footfall and stopping access to them in the UK, either through hosting restrictions or self-imposed geo-blocking.

“We will continue to study the impact of our interventions and respond accordingly.”

Andrew Rhodes, CEO of the UK Gambling Commission

Rhodes also provided data on what kind of impact the work the UKGC is doing in relation to illegal gambling, as he noted that access to four of the top 10 illegal domains has been restricted via geo-blocking, as well as a 46 per cent reduction in traffic to the largest illegal sites coming to the UK market.

Access to 17 sites from Google search results has been blocked, and the UKGC has worked with Mastercard on removing payment facilities from illegal sites too. The CEO praised collaboration with partners and fellow regulators around the world for helping to achieve results in combating illegal gambling.

Rhodes commented: “We will continue to study the impact of our interventions and respond accordingly. We also intend to deepen our collaboration with partners in industry, tech and finance to further strengthen what we can do to disrupt this activity.”

The CEO added that the UKGC will be holding a conference In March that will examine how further partner collaboration can further decay, frustrate and drive out illegal online gambling.

He noted: “I have also reached out to our biggest operators to second expertise into the Gambling Commission from the industry itself. The industry sees a lot of what goes on and we know it can be hard to recruit and retain certain expertise in the public sector.

“So, I want to get a flow of expertise between the industry and the regulator to help on what is very much a shared risk. We have made some good progress and when we receive the powers promised to the commission in the government’s white paper we’ll be able to go further.”

However, Rhodes shares the same viewpoint recently made by UKGC Executive Director Tim Miller – that further teamwork between regulators is needed to help navigate the issues of the global gambling industry.

“Working together, sharing experiences, we can achieve better outcomes for everyone.”

Andrew Rhodes, CEO of the UK Gambliing Commission

The CEO said: “Products evolve all the time as do behaviours. What we do is about a mixture of product, person and place. There will always be a far greater level of combined understanding amongst all of us then there is alone.

“We work hard to strengthen our relationships with other regulators abroad, these are relationships that matter. We will always look to share our experiences with you and likewise are keen to learn from yours. 

“We want to further build a culture of sharing best practice between us – we want your good ideas for ourselves. And we also want – where appropriate to do so – to share notes on the many operators who now trade globally.

“Because if an operator is making failings in your jurisdiction, the chances are they might be in my jurisdiction and others as well. And the world is too big for any one of us to act as the World Police. But working together, sharing experiences, we can achieve better outcomes for everyone.”

Rhodes concluded: “Each and every one of us is in our own way, for our own jurisdiction, are looking to make gambling safer, fairer and crime-free. So working together not only makes sense, it makes what we’re trying to do easier too.”