UK Gambling Commission steps up enforcement procedures

UK Gambling Commission steps up enforcement procedures

Tuesday, November 8, 2016 Posted by Andy McCarron
Sarah Harrisson expects bigger fines and more licence reviews

The UK Gambling Commission has pledged to tighten up its enforcement policy in a move that will see higher fines and more licence reviews.

Speaking at the Commission’s own ‘Raising Standards Conference’ in Birmingham, CEO Sarah Harrison warned the industry to ‘accelerate the pace’ at which operators are making sure consumers are protected and respected, but was very clear that the regulator was preparing to up its own game in order to get wider compliance.

Harrison said that the Commission currently had a preference for ‘pursuing compliance’ by using regulatory settlements rather than full on licence reviews, but she said that period was coming to an end.

She explained: “We will put access to all tools, including licence review (both of the operator and personal management licences), on an equal footing. Put simply we will use the right tool for the job. Parliament gave us a wide range of regulatory tools for a reason. Yes, we should use them proportionately but adopting a blanket approach of seeking a regulatory settlement as a matter of course is not the right way to achieve that proportionality.”

However the fines that still get issued are likely to be of a greater magnitude as well according to Harrison: “In addition, we will propose changes to our statement on financial penalties with the likelihood of higher penalties going forward, in particular where we see systemic and repeated failings. Our principles on penalties already reflect the need to remove profits from non-compliance, take account of costs and consumer harm, and deter poor compliance but higher penalties are likely if we do not see behaviour changing.”

Harrison said that while the Commission will be consulting on enforcement policies over the next few months, any breaches from November could well ‘attract higher penalties’.

She said that while the regulator will still go down the settlement route, where it is efficient to do so, but she believes the whole process is too drawn out and may even introduce discounts for early settlements as an incentive to speed things up.

She added: “What is encouraging is that we are seeing some operators coming forward and declaring issues of non-compliance to us. I commend those of you who have done this. Operators who spot an issue, declare it to us, implement a quick and effective improvement plan, focussed on preventing reoccurrence, and who make redress to consumers, should be credited. In this instance, we would certainly consider resolution through settlement rather than licence review.”

Totally Gaming says: Settlement has certainly been a key tool in the Gambling Commission’s armour. In the past 12 months, Gala Coral, Paddy Power, Camelot and Caesars have all faced six figure settlements. However this summer’s licence review of Betfred, which ended with the bookmaker being given a £800,000 ‘penalty package’ seems to have embolden the regulator to go down that route more often as it looks to maintain the zeal for putting the consumer first.

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