News that the Gambling Commission may be axing dozens of staff has caused a veritable shit-storm in Westminster: with long-term critics seizing on it as further proof of an organisation “unfit for purpose”.
Some of Westminster’s most prominent anti-gambling campaigners have reacted with horror to new rumours that the Gambling Commission is preparing to reduce its number of employees.
A report in the Guardian this weekend quoted an anonymous source as confirming that all of the Commission’s 332 full-time staff had been contacted in recent days with the ominous news that jobs cuts were to be expected as part of what the paper termed was a “broad structural reorganisation.”
When pressed for comment, the Gambling Commission declined to elaborate on the numbers of jobs at risk – copping only to the fact that it was talking to employees “about some changes we are considering” to ensure its operations were “more agile.”
“The pace of change and the complexity of the issues we have to manage are increasing and that means we have to constantly look for ways to be more agile and responsive as new risks or opportunities emerge,” said a spokesperson, adding only that any prospective changes “may affect the way we work and how we organise ourselves.”
But according to the Guardian insider, the staff-cut is already a done deal: and a direct consequence of the under funding highlighted by February’s National Audit Report.
Indeed, the key finding of the NAO paper was that the regulator’s annual budget of £19m lacked the punch to allow the regulator adequate resources to get-to-grips with the scale and sophistication of Britain’s burgeoning online gambling market. At publication, the report was taken up by responsible gambling APPG head Carolyn Harris MP (and others) as proof that the Commission in its present form was “not fit for purpose,” and that GamCom chief executive Neil McArthur should step aside.
Small surprise, then, that when news of the Commission’s potential downsizing reached parliament on Monday, Harris’ withering anti-commission rhetoric truly hit DEFCON-1.
“Given the abysmal service provided by the commission against a continued onslaught of reprehensible practice among gambling companies, and a woeful report from the NAO, I had expected the Gambling Commission to be beefing up their service in an attempt to justify their existence,” she said, presumably pausing only to throw another dart at the portrait of Neil McArthur she’d tacked up on her cork-board. “If they are scaling back, it must be assumed they have given up and will be declaring themselves unfit for purpose.”
Meanwhile, her Conservative vice-chair (and fellow long-term gambling critic) Iain Duncan Smith added: “If nothing else tells you that the government needs to overhaul the Gambling Commission to give it more teeth, this decision makes it absolutely clear that must be done now.”
Ooooh. Well that’s them told, then.
“This is an internal matter for the Commission. The key metrics for us and for our members are efficiency, knowledge and having a progressive rather than a bureaucratic approach to dealing with the issues faced by the industry. It’s about having talented people and a positive culture rather than headcount. If anything positive emerges after the trauma caused by COVID-19 I hope that it’s a recognition that we will all benefit from having a productive and grown-up relationship with our regulator which is based on trust and a mutual understanding.”