Gambling Commission tests the waters for licensee fee increases

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The regulator says that it needs more money to keep pace with tech developments within the online sector – but that doesn’t mean landed operators will be getting off scot-free. The cost of regulation could rise by 55 percent if the Gambling Commission gets its way – and, of course, survives the government’s gambling review.

 

The Gambling Commission has floated for consultation proposals which would see the regulator substantially increase its annual license fees for online gambling operators.

Launched last week, the consultation process will last until March 25, with a spokesperson for the watchdog saying it provided the chance to explore “much-needed changes to our fee income to enable us to continue to regulate effectively.”

If implemented, the proposed changes would see remote operators pay 55 per cent more in their annual fees to the regulator, with a more modest hike of 15 per cent levelled at landed equivalents. The outlined timeline for the new fee structure would see online operators subject to the new renewal and application fees as of October 1 this year. Meanwhile, out of acknowledgement for what it surmised as the “particular difficulties” caused to landed operators throughout the pandemic (namely, being shut down for the lion’s share of its duration), the Commission said that it would delay its proposed increase in fees for bricks-and-mortar outfits – with landed operators obliged to chip in more from April 2022 onwards.

With recent years seeing exponential growth in the UK’s online gambling market, the Gambling Commission has been repeatedly accused of falling behind in its policing of the digital realm – whilst simultaneously over-regulating its comparatively diminutive (but more comprehensible) landed equivalent.

Indeed, it was to this end that just last year, during an intensive National Audit Office review of the Gambling Commission’s productivity, Carolyn Harris MP infamously declared that the watchdog was “no longer fit for purpose.” And indeed, in the report it released as part of the consultation process for its proposed fee increase, the Commission seemed to acknowledge that it had been outpaced by industry developments online – and cited this growing gap in its capacity to justify the need for greater funding.

“The Commission is experiencing new challenges in regulation which are expected to grow in significance in coming years, [including] increased technological developments [and] changes in the size and shape of the market,” read a press statement. “Further resources will mean we are able to make greater and faster progress in making gambling safer and protecting consumers in the years to come.”


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