GC’s Sarah Harrison: Delivering a gambling market that is fairer and safer for consumers

GC’s Sarah Harrison: Delivering a gambling market that is fairer and safer for consumers

Wednesday, February 7, 2018 Posted by Luke Massey
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Sarah Harrison will be leaving her role as CEO at the end of the month

The UK Gambling Commission (GC) will be appointing a new CEO after Sarah Harrison leaves to take up a senior role with the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy.

During her keynote session in the International Casino Conference at ICE VOX, the outgoing CEO stressed the need to “step up” the work in responsible gambling, while highlighting the Commission's on-going commitment to consumer protection.

We caught up with her just a few days before the start of ICE to discuss the most significant achievements of her tenure, new additions to the UK's regulatory licensing framework, and the major challenges for industry leadership in 2018 and beyond.

Totally Gaming: In your tenure as UK GC leader, what has been your most significant achievement?

Sarah Harrison: Putting a stronger focus on consumers, their interests and the industry’s need to go much further to treat customers fairly and focus on safer gambling.

TG: From your perspective, are the industry’s recent Anti-Money-Laundering and Social Responsibility failures intertwined, or are these separate discrepancies?

SH: Ensuring you are socially responsible and preventing money laundering are often inextricably linked, because to achieve both operators need to know their customers well, while having the capability and systems to detect and intervene to guard against crime and protect consumers.

TG: Following a turbulent 2017 for the gambling sector, will new provisions be added to the UK’s regulatory licensing framework?

SH: We have already published proposals to make gambling more fair and open. They include a focus on compliance with the UK Advertising Codes, making sure operators comply with all relevant consumer protection legislation, and improvements to consumer complaints handling including the introduction of an eight-week time limit for licensees to deal with gambling complaints.

These proposals will support our three-year strategy, which sets out how we will work with our partners to deliver a gambling market that is fairer and safer for consumers. This current consultation represents only a part of the work we are taking forwards to help protect the interests of consumers.

TG: What do you believe will be the main challenge for industry leadership in 2018 and beyond?

SH: Without doubt, the main challenge for operators should be for them to up their game in keeping customers safe from gambling-related harm and creating a market that the public can trust.

Two months ago, we hosted our Raising Standards conference in Birmingham which was attended by around 200 operators.

During the event, I was very clear that while there has been some progress the bar has been set too low by operators in relation to treating customers fairly. The customer experience has not been what it should be. Fairness is key, transparency is essential, and unreasonable behaviour will not be accepted, by us, by our partner organisations and certainly not by the consumer.

We want to work with operators to see the bar raised. My colleagues are keen to hear from operators about the types of topics and issues they would like support on, and in addition we would like operators to come forward and tell us where they are already raising standards or working to make gambling fairer and safer for consumers.

Over the next 12 months we want to be able to share success stories and create forums for talking about lessons learned and best practice.

You can drop by the stand at ICE, located in the Consumer Protection Zone, or email the team at raisingstandards@gamblingcommission.gov.uk with your suggestions.

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