As UK’s Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport continues with the Gambling Act 2005 review, the Parliamentary All-Party Betting and Gaming Group (APBGG) has launched an inquiry into the UK Gambling Commission (UKGC). The APBGG investigation aims to look into the ‘competence and effectiveness’ of the UK gaming ombudsman after the group received ‘numerous criticisms’ of the watchdog from industry members.
In 2020, the House of Lords Select Committee, National Audit Office, and the Public Accounts Committee released reports about the Social and Economic Impact of the Gambling Industry, with some remarks about UKGC’s performance. The Social Markets Foundation, a highly regarded public-policy think tank also published a report recommending an overhaul of UK’s gambling regulations. Still, the APBGG has indicated that the remarks about the UKGC in the reports failed to cover the full scope of allegations that have been made against the gaming watchdog.
The APBGG also raised concern that gaming industry members are likely ‘too scared to publicly criticize the UKGC due to its power over them.’ To that effect, the APBGG has invited the ‘scared’ industry members on its official website to submit their thoughts about the UK Gambling Commission.
APBGG’s website is a platform where contributors can anonymously share their complaints, criticisms, and evidence against the gaming regulator in cases where they deem its actions’ unacceptable’ for a gambling oversight body. According to them, it is vital for the gambling industry to have a platform where they can rightfully criticize the UKGC without fear or favor.
Scott Benton MP, the co-chair of the Parliamentary All-Party Betting & Gaming Group, voiced his sentiments on the probe, saying:
“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. For a number of years, industry members have come to us and complained about the activities of the Commission. 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 the Commission itself, we feel it is our duty to provide a conduit for legitimate criticism of the regulator.”
APBGG Could Abandon Ship if the Probe Fails to Hold Water
The types of complaints that APBGG expects on its website have been categorized into different cases as follows – where the UK Gambling Commission:
- Acted beyond its regulatory mandate
- Breached the regulators’ code of conduct
- Provided sub-standard or inferior quality service and/or showed incompetence in service delivery to a level that questions its ability to function effectively
With the deadline for the anonymous complaints set for October 31st, 2021, the All-Party Parliamentary Group plans to forward the findings of this inquiry to the DCMS. Should the volume and breadth of the complaints be ‘sufficient,’ the group hopes that the results will inform the 2005 Gambling Act review. Likewise, the APBGG also added that the information provided by contributors for the inquiry has the potential to assist any applicable BEIS Minister tasked with supervising industry regulatory bodies.
On top of that, the All-Party Group has plans to ask Andrew Rhodes, the interim CEO of the UK Gambling Commission, to attend an industry audience meeting. The group wants to offer Rhodes to share the Commission’s stance on the complaints and respond formally so that the final APBGG report can be ‘distributed to whoever wants it. In part of his statement, Benton added that:
“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.”
But then, the Parliamentary Group has cited that it will shelf the project in case they don’t get enough complaints to sufficiently inform the drafting and publication of the UKGC activity report.