UKGC amends all regulatory returns submissions to quarterly frequency

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The UK Gambling Commission has made amendments to the frequency of when regulatory return submissions from gambling licensees need to be sent to them, requiring all regulatory returns to be submitted quarterly.

Amendments to licence condition 15.3.1 of the Licence Conditions and Codes of Practice will see the commission move away from regulations that saw some licensees submit returns on an annual basis.

Coming into effect on July 1, 2024, the final wording of amended general and regulatory returns code provision 15.3.1 is the following:

“15.3.1 – General and regulatory returns

“On request, licensees must provide the Gambling Commission with such information as the Commission may require, in such a form or manner as the Commission may from time-to-time specify, about the use made of facilities provided in accordance with this licence and the manner in which gambling authorised by this licence and the licensee’s business in relation to that gambling are carried on. 

“In particular within 28 days of the end of each quarterly period licensees must submit an accurate Regulatory Return to the Commission containing such information as the Commission may from time to time specify.”

The UKGC believes quarterly returns will have a material impact on its budgeting ability and “gain an improved capacity to understand income levels and forecast more accurately”, provide a “timelier, deeper, more accurate understanding of the gambling sector” in line with the government’s white paper intentions, as well as “facilitate simpler systems development”.

In addition, the commission also believes the amendments will help to make sure licensees are in the correct fee category, assist in effective regulation, as well as help with the publication of industry statistics on the size and shape of the gambling market.

UKGC regulatory returns consultation feedback

The commission came to its position on the amendments by utilising the data from a consultation process conducted between November 29, 2023, and February 21, 2024, involving 45 individual respondents, of which: 

  • 18 – ‘a person representing a gambling business’
  • 10 – ‘a person representing a charity and/or non-profit’
  • Seven – ‘a person representing a trade association’
  • Two – ‘a person representing a professional body, including academic organisations’
  • Three – ‘a person representing a licensing authority or other regulator’
  • Three – ‘a person responding in a personal capacity who is or has worked in a gambling business’
  • One – ‘member of the public’
  • One – ‘not answered’

The consultation asked the question: “To what extent do you agree or disagree with the proposed change to regulatory return submissions from annual to quarterly? – Please give reasons”.

In total, 22 of the respondents agreed or strongly agreed with the proposal, 16 respondents disagreed or strongly disagreed, and seven respondents neither agreed nor disagreed.

Of those who agreed with the proposal, the reasons included clearer and more timely gambling harms insights, more up-to-date data for better evaluation of public health interventions, greater efficiencies among licensees who have multiple licence types by aligning remote and non-remote submission dates, as well as balancing out the increased frequency of returns and reducing submission complexity via the removal of data fields.

Of those who disagreed with the proposal, the listed reasons included an increase in administrative burden which could take financial resources away from charitable causes, impact the UKGC’s ability to respond to licensees, as well as a “disparity between the Commission’s intention to introduce a ‘risk informed’ approach in how they interact with operators”.

Other reasons against the proposals included that it would be difficult for charities to manage since lotteries are not part of their core business, they wouldn’t offer “any improved insight compared to annual returns which better capture the rate of change” and they could raise the risk of further penalties over missed deadlines.

Ways to mitigate the listed concerns were also given by respondents, including having only higher risk operators report quarterly, increasing the time permitted for return completion to 42 days, as well as the commission “alleviating the burden of quarterly reporting with a simplified, ‘more meaningful’ submittal process”.

The UKGC did receive three comments on the proposal’s potential equalities impacts, but a link to the proposal was not established in all these cases.

UKGC’s position

The amendments will come into effect on July 1, 2024, meaning all licensees must submit their first quarterly regulatory returns related to the period July 1, 2024, to September 30, 2024, by October 28, 2024. 

Additional changes that were previously agreed in the ‘2020 Consultation: Changes to information requirements in the LCCP’ will be brought in alongside these amendments, including the removal of several questions and the harmonisation of reporting periods across the industry.

The UKGC stated: “Given the fast-moving nature of the industry we regulate, quarterly returns will support our aim to be a risk-based, evidence-led, and outcomes-focused regulator. 

“This includes the ability to be better informed about market conditions, to provide a timelier and more accurate picture of the gambling sector, and to better support the Commission to understand and be responsive to any impact of market developments and of gambling regulatory changes.

“By aligning reporting periods across the industry, the quality of our data will improve as we will no longer need to apportion data from each operator to the financial year. For licensees with multiple licences, it will simplify the administration required for submitting regulatory returns as they can all be done at the same time across the same time periods.”

The commission acknowledged that extra administrative burdens and costs could occur, but noted that it was “satisfied” that other regulatory returns changes being made would “compensate for this increase” and it doesn’t believe that asking for regulatory data on a quarterly basis is “overly burdensome”.

As part of the ‘2020 Consultation: Changes to information requirements in the LCCP’, the UKGC added that around 600 fields across all licence types will be removed, while aligning all returns to the same reporting period will “make the process more efficient for operators” and will help to find ways to improve data collection to simplify the submission process.