The UK Gambling Commission (UKGC) has diverted £9 million in industry fines to help its charities cope with the current COVID-19 crisis through their problem gambling, funding, study and care.
GambleAware, which will be charged with distributing funds to its affiliate network, has been specifically allocated by the UKGC to lead gambling-harm prevention charity.
The UKGC and GambleAware have made it a priority to ensure that rehabilitation and recovery programmes for gambling harm will continue to work efficiently, despite increased uncertainty created by the coronavirus outbreak.
The £9 million emergency fund was obtained from business payments earned by UKGC, paying for penalty charges on social responsibility, customer engagement and failures to launder money.
At the beginning of 2020, administrative action by the UKGC has driven the industry to pay £27 m in penalty packages.
The Chairman of the Gambling Commission, William Moyes, said: “In the current climate, and with the potential risks to British consumers in mind, we have fast-tracked this settlement-driven funding to GambleAware so their work to prevent gambling harms and award grants can continue seamlessly.
“Through the use of regulatory action to prevent harm, such as the ban of credit for gambling, alongside the use of regulatory settlements to support treatment services, the Commission is taking wide-ranging action to address the additional risk of harm that may come from Covid-19.”
The UKGC outlined in its statement that participation in the gambling has dropped during the lockdown period. However, the Commission states that ‘there is evidence of an increase in the use of certain gambling products such as online slots, poker, casino gaming and virtual sports’.
GambleAware has reported that it helps partners move their support systems to alternative distribution models such as online, with the goal of sustaining the UK’s problem gambling support networks during an unpredictable period.
GambleAware CEO Marc Etches stated: “We welcome the receipt of these regulatory settlements at this uncertain time. Guided by a public health model, GambleAware commissions prevention and treatment services across England, Scotland and Wales in partnership with expert organisations and agencies, including the NHS.
“These funds will enable us to provide greater security around the funding of the National Gambling Treatment Service, and help keep people safe from gambling harms.”