UKGC Boosts Financial Penalties Against Licensees

In its most recent fiscal year, the UK Gambling Commission (UKGC) significantly boosted financial penalties against licensees while warning operators not to take advantage of customers during the second pandemic lockdown in the world.

The UKGC published its new Compliance & Enforcement Report on Friday, outlining the steps it took to ensure that its land-based and online licensees remained on the straight and narrow path in the 12 months ending March 2020, as well as the penalties it levied when operators decided to paint outside the lines.

In 2019-20, the UKGC released 12 financial penalty packages or regulatory settlements worth over £30 million, a more than 50 percent rise from the £19.6 million received in 2018-19 from regulatory slackers. Five operating licences were suspended by the UKGC, 11 were revoked and 49 personal management licence (PML) holders started reviews.

Neil McArthur, CEO of UKGC, said the 2019-20 report showed that the regulator was not afraid to “take tough action” against its licensees. McArthur added that the increasing emphasis of the UKGC on “those in boardrooms and senior positions” should leave no question that it will “continue to hold people to account for failings that they knew or ought to have known about.”

This week, the United Kingdom conducted its second pandemic lockdown, and McArthur advised online licensees that the UKGC’s’ stricter consumer security steps during lockdown’ provided during the first lockdown this spring are still applicable.

The isolation of consumers for marketing purposes, especially when it comes to cross-selling online gaming products to sports and race bettors, is not among the areas of major concern. Customer affordability tests, the subject of a recent public UKGC consultation, are also high on the watchlist of the regulator.

Friday also saw the publication of the first National Strategic Review of the UKGC, a summary of the “key issues faced in making gambling fairer, safer and crime free.” The study includes a collection of statistics on the who / what / where / when / why of UK gambling and the role of the UKGC in it.

The report, which may have been intended as a rearguard action against increasing demands by some politicians for a top-to-bottom reform of the UKGC, is nothing especially new. Carolyn Harris was quoted just this week saying she didn’t see how the UKGC” can continue in its current form … this is not an organisation that needs tweaking; it needs changing completely.”

But the UKGC is also aware that the government is planning to eventually begin its review of the 2005 Gambling Act and will try to ensure that hard evidence rather than hyperbole is used to make any improvements.