Commission chief executive Sarah Harrison made the point during a speech to operators at the Commission’s first Raising Standards Conference in Birmingham, where the industry was challenged to become the most trusted gambling sector in the world.
Harrison said that while operators had been making progress in areas including the development and implementation of harm reduction strategies and gambling management tools for consumers, she believes that there is still more to be done.
She told the gambling industry: “You need to raise your ambitions and your sights higher. You need to step up the pace of change – in how you handle customer complaints; ensure advertising is clear; simplify terms and conditions; develop your risk management strategies on money laundering; evaluate the impact of social responsibility initiatives – and, working across all these areas, in how you do more to share best practice…
“Don’t wait for a crisis to happen that shakes the very foundation of customers’ trust in your industry. Act now and demonstrate to consumers that your interest in their needs is genuine.”
Harrison warned that future failures could result in stronger penalties. Many of the big land-based operators have already faced big fines, mainly for money laundering deficiencies but also some failures in social responsibility. This year alone Betfred was handed a £800,000 ‘penalty package’ following a licence review this year, Gala Coral forfeited £846,600 and Paddy Power contributed £280,000 to socially responsible causes. However it seems that the regulator doesn’t believe that issuing fines in this way is doing the job.
Harrison added: “One of the principles in the Commission’s existing statement for licensing and regulation is a preference for pursuing compliance through means that stop short of a licence review, in favour of a regulatory settlement. We propose to remove this bias.
“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.
“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.”