It never rains but it pours.
Barely a week goes by these days where the UK Gambling Commission isn’t blasted by one betting industry stakeholder, with some saying they are over-zealous in their work and others claiming they don’t go far enough with their regulatory powers.
When it’s a parliamentary group that is giving you the metaphorical kicking, however, the seriousness of the commentary is likely to be taken very seriously by the powers that be.
The All-Party Betting & Gaming Group (APBGG) is, as the name suggests, a collection of elected ministers that have come together to ensure that the gambling sector is appropriately regulated and managed.
Now, it should be said that APBGG members are all, in some way, affiliated to companies or concerns in the industry – to their credit, they are completely transparent about that.
The insinuation we might ourselves make is that they are interested in creating a soft regulatory framework in which gambling firms – of which some APBGG members are thought to be investors – are given a bit more wiggle room as to how they operate.
Anyway, the group has been investigating the regulator for some time, and earlier this week they finally published the findings of their study: Investigation into the Competence and Effectiveness of the Gambling Commission.
And it does not make for pretty reading….
Having sat down with representatives from betting firms and other industry stakeholders, the APBGG has come up with a long old list of concerns about the regulator.
One of the main topics, and this has been mentioned by a number of different entities over the years, is that there is only one way to make a complaint about the UKGC: through the Commission’s own complaints department!
It almost beggars belief that there isn’t some kind of independent agency that those wanting to complain about the regulator can turn to, and that’s one of the reasons why many in the sector believe now is the time for a gambling ombudsman to be created.
If you were a gambling firm that sent a complaint about the Commission to, erm, the Commission, would you be fearful of reprisals in the future?
Just some of the other accusations levelled at the regulator include:
- That the Commission acts beyond its powers
- That it has breached the Regulator’s Code
- That it is incompetent and ineffective
The APBGG claim to have ‘numerous examples’ of where the regulator has overstepped the mark, and that they wield powers not afforded to them when created as part of the Gambling Act 2005.
The report concludes that the Gambling Commission is ‘anti gambling’, an ‘activist group’, has ‘gone rogue’ and has morphed into a body that is ‘out to get the industry’.
They have called upon the Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport to act immediately, with the aim of turning the Commission – in their words – into a ‘competent and effective regulator.’
For the Sake of Balance
So far, the Commission hasn’t publicly commented on the report.
But ever argument needs a sense of balance, so let’s consider what the APBGG stand to gain from panning the regulator?
What does Scott Benton MP, who has accused the Commission of bad practice, and who accepted £8,000 worth of free Euro 2020 and Royal Ascot tickets from betting firms last summer, stand to gain by sticking it to the regulator?
What does Baroness Jolly, who has consistently voted againstthe greater regulation of the gambling industry, stand to gain from hammering the Commission?
Why would Viscount Astor, whose family run the Cliveden Stud horse racing yard, have a beef with a betting industry regulator?
What could Aaron Bell MP, a former trading analyst at Ladbrokes and Bet365, possibly have against the Commission?
And so on. And that’s to name just four of the ten-strong APBGG panel.
Is the Gambling Commission fit for purpose? Perhaps, perhaps not. But that is for a government appointed, independent body to investigate and report on. It’s not, dare I say it, for those with a vested interest in the regulator being dragged across the coals to comment so authoritatively.