What was startling about the Gambling Commission’s first ever Enforcement Report wasn’t the detail of its actions taken against the misdemeanours of gaming operators, but the relatively low number of cases it needed to act on within the coin-op sector. Part of a wave of pronouncements from the UK regulator recently, the contents of this particular missive carried the familiar force and tone of the GC, but it also served to reinforce a growingly contentious issue: is the softer side of gaming paying the heavier price of regulation?
Just a few weeks ago, the Gambling Commission published its Enforcement Report detailing action taken by the regulator against operators over the past year for breaches of regulations. Covering a broad remit of areas – self-exclusion,anti- money laundering and illegal gaming included – the 26 page report highlights cases pursued by the GC, most already well publicised by the authority. It signifies not just how thorough the regulator has been in enforcing regulation, but more importantly for the coin-op sector, the relatively low number of problems found within land-based operations.
The 2017-18 report, the first of its kind delivered by the regulator, highlighted an enthusiastically active Gambling Commission, clearly comfortable in its enforcement responsibilities. In a previous life, it must almost certainly have been a duck;it was simply made for the waters of regulatory execution.
The enforcement year went swimmingly for the Commission. Quack, quack, quack. Not so comfortable, though, for some of the offending businesses in the broader based gaming and gambling industry;the errors uncovered, it must be said, were poor and disappointing at best, albeit neither malicious nor with malintent.
So,who and what were the bad and the ugly? In the AML arena,the Commission issued 7 advisory notes to the industry in the year, and pursued three notable cases.This after an industry based inquiry for the land based casino sector,and 22 investigations into remote operations. One area of key concern was shortcomings in checking the source of customers money.
In customer interaction, two licensees were brought to task for failing to detect problem gamblers, and the commission also published a guidance document for remote gambling operators. In the case of one licensee, the online operator had proved unable to identify two customers displaying clear signs of problem gambling; the pair had stolen money to play and the penalty applied was £1 million plus reimbursement of £1.2 million to the companies defrauded by their staff.
In self-exclusion,there were three serious online breaches – 888, Sky Betting and Tabcorp – with the figures of failure significant. Players who had self excluded were allowed to continue playing.
Neil McArthur, chief executive of the Gambling Commission, was satisfied with the year’s work. “We want operators to pay attention to the lessons set out in this report. We want them to focus on ways to make gambling fairer and safer for consumers in Great Britain,” he said.
“We also want gambling businesses to collaborate and to invest the same amount of resources into data,technology and research into building better protections for consumers, as they do to creating new products, or advertising and marketing campaigns.
“This is a call to action to the leaders of operators to set the tone from the top,to lead a culture of compliance that puts doing the right thing for your customers first, and to strive to continuously raise standards for consumers.”
And it’s a call that has readily be taken up by the business community.So much so that given the vast size of the gaming industry, and the relatively low number of incidents pro rata, it has done well to keep the numbers down.
The report suggests though, that the small number of maladies will need to be restrained and ultimately eradicated.