The Parliamentary All Party Betting and Gaming Group (APBGG) has initiated an investigation into the ‘competence and effectiveness’ of the UK Gambling Commission (UKGC), as the regulating and licensing authority of UK gambling.
Under the inquiry, licensed operators will be able to issue complaints to the APBGG concerning three categories – whether the UKGC has acted ‘ultra vires’ and gone beyond the powers of a regulator, whether the regular has breached the Regulators Code and lastly whether the Commission has provided a poor quality of service or delivered this service incompetently.
Setting a deadline for complaints of 31 October 2021, the parliamentary group aims to submit its findings to the DCMS to inform the review of the 2005 Gambling Act – should the number of complaints be ‘sufficient’ – as well as to any relevant BEIS Minister with responsibility of oversight of industry regulators.
Additionally, the group plans to invite the CEO of the UKGC – a position currently held by interim appointee Andrew Rhodes – whilst also publishing its report via its own website to ‘make it possible to have the report distributed to whoever wants it’.
However, the project will be abandoned if the APBGG does not receive a sufficient number of complaints to inform the development and publication of a report into UKGC activity.
“As Co-Chairman of the All Party Betting and Gaming Group, I believe it is essential that the key player in our industry is challenged over its actions,” said Scott Benton MP, Co-Chair of the APBGG. “For a number of years, industry members have come to us and complained about the activities of the Commission.”
The APBGG’s decision to launch a complaints process has been influenced by a concern that some UK betting and gaming incumbents may be ‘too scared’ to levy public criticism at the UKGC due to ‘the power it holds over them’.
Noted condemnations of the Commission’s activities include cases in which licences have allegedly been rejected on the basis of non-payment even after a payment was conducted, questions regarding the UKGC’s authority to impose specific COVID-19 restrictions on bookmakers and misunderstandings between social responsibility and AML requirements.
Given the ‘numerous criticisms’ of the UKGC from industry figures, the APBGG felt that a prior investigation into the regulator’s conduct as part of reports published by the Public Accounts Committee, National Audit Office and House of Lords Select Committee on the Social and Economic Impact of the Gambling Industry in 2020 did not fully cover full scope of allegations.
As the only option for making a complaint about the UKGC is to submit said complaint with the regulator itself, the APBGG is hopeful that its new process will provide a platform for operators to raise their concerns in an anonymous manner. Although complainants will initially have to declare their identities, all submissions will be anonymised in the report.
Benton continued: “They have been too scared to go public with their concerns, some even about the very legality of the Commission’s undertakings due to the Commission’s power over them. As they have no formal method of complaint apart from to the Commission itself, we feel it is our duty to provide a conduit for legitimate criticism of the regulator.
“We are pleased that the new interim CEO has been given the job of ‘rebooting’ the regulator, we hope that the findings of our investigation will help him and DDCMS answer some very serious concerns that the industry has. All the British gambling industry wants is a competent and effective regulator.”