The UK Gambling Commission (UKGC) has revealed its new five-point strategy to create a ‘fairer and safer’ gambling market for both online and traditional players. The plan of action sets out the UKGC’s ‘direction of travel’ for the next three years and is the latest attempt at tightening regulation in the industry.
The document details a five-pronged strategy designed to protect the interests of consumers; prevent harm to consumers and the public; raise standards in the gambling market; optimise returns to good causes from lotteries; improve the way it regulates. The following breaks down the UKGC's strategy.
The strategy is set against the context of the Gambling Commission’s own recent research, which found that 63% of the adult population in Britain has gambled over the past year – although of those 32 million gamblers 29% play only the National Lottery. The total net spend on the British gambling industry was £13.8 billion.
The biggest chunk of adult gambling (31%) came from online. While the number of betting shops and bingo halls has decreased in the past couple of years, 18% of the population have gambled online with 29% of those doing so via mobile devices.
The UKGC also estimates that around two million people in the country are ‘at-risk’ of problem gambling, with men – particularly those aged 16-34 – at significantly greater risk than women. Problem gamblers are defined as 0.4 million, or 0.8% of the population, and tackling this issue is one of the key points of the strategy.
These statistics highlight just how big an industry gambling is and how popular it is as a pastime in the UK. They also reflect the changing nature of the industry and the challenges presented by new technology like pay-by-phone casinos and the digital revolution hitting online gaming heading into 2018.
On protecting consumers’ interests, the UKGC says that it wants to improve consumers’ understandings of gambling products and services. The commission also wants operators to provide their customers with easier access to easy-to-read information and tools to help them manage their gambling activity.
It states it will penalise ‘companies who misrepresent information to consumers or fail to treat them fairly’. The UKGC has already put that into practice in 2017, imposing fines on a number of companies this year including a record £7.8 million sanction for 888 Holdings in August. Other measures outlined in the document include
The strategy also focuses on the National Lottery, which contributed around £1.7 billion to good causes in the year to September 2016. Like the rest of the gambling market, lotteries are diversifying with new providers and new games being added constantly.
The UKGC aims to ensure that fundraising remains the core purpose of lotteries. It wants to ‘improve the transparency of the contributions’ people make, enabling them to understand how and where their money is spent.
UKGC chair Bill Moyes said:
"This is an ambitious strategy to deliver fairer and safer gambling over the next three years; we can only be successful in this by engaging with consumers and by working closely with all our regulatory partners and the industry.
"In the same way that this strategy challenges the industry, we also challenge ourselves – as the regulator – to deliver effective, targeted and innovative regulation.
"At the end of three years we expect to see an industry that strives continuously to raise their standards, treat customers fairly, and protect vulnerable people."
The publication of the Gambling Commission’s strategy comes as the Government continues its consultation following a review into the gambling sector. Proposals being discussed include new maximum stakes on fixed-odds betting terminals (FOBTs) and tougher restrictions around advertising online.
It’s clear that the industry is being looked at closely at the moment, with many operators upping their game when it comes to becoming more responsible and transparent in how they deal with consumers. Overall, the movent towards more fair and safe gambling is a win for the online players!