Despite making plenty of noise and headlines as 2021 begins, the Gambling Commission is yet to prove it is equally proficient at listening to the industry – and cutting through the static to find the statistics relevant to an evidence-based approach to regulation. So argues industry expert David Clifton.
The Gambling Commission has been dominating the headlines in early 2021, according to David Clifton, director of Clifton Davies Consultancy, but the regulator’s intentions for the year are still far from clear.
Along with some high profile fines to start the year, the Commission has been making noise with statements and surveys, as well as announcing that it will be taking into account advice received from its newly established Lived Experience Advisory Group that is continuing the work previously undertaken by the interim Experts by Experience group. Clifton explained that this new group’s advice will most certainly influence both safer gambling policy requirements placed on operators by the regulator and further progress of the National Strategy to Reduce Gambling Harms.
“In the interests of balance, one wonders whether the Commission will place equal weight on advice from industry bodies such as the Betting and Gaming Council,” he continued. “After all, less than three months ago, the Commission’s CEO did express to an audience of industry leaders keenness on the part of the regulator to engage more directly in future with those of its licence-holders and their trade bodies that are willing to work in collaboration with the regulator to raise standards further.”
The BGC will want the Commission to take particular notice of a PwC report entitled “Review of unlicensed online gambling in the UK”, published by the trade body on 4 February. However, a sizeable difference of opinion appears to exist between the Commission and the BGC with regard to the level of threat from the illegal online gambling black market if overregulation of the industry occurs as a result of the upcoming gambling act, says Clifton.
“I say that because the Commission’s CEO wrote a letter on the nature, scale, and disruption of illegal gambling in the UK to the Chair of the Gambling-Related Harm APPG (Carolyn Harris MP) on 15 January, in which he said: “We know that licensed operators and their trade bodies are concerned about the impact of the illegal market, but our own evidence suggests that the impact may be being exaggerated’”, explained Clifton, adding that it was “a bit perplexing” that while saying the black market threat was exaggerated, the Commission had also been justifying substantial fee increases with the need for more staff and resources to reflect ‘increasing risks associated with unlicensed operators and the need to protect consumers and the industry from ‘black market’ encroachment’.
Indeed, despite the volume at which the Commission has started 2021, its message is anything but clear as it attempts to balance the conflict between opinions from ‘experts by experience’ and evidence based facts from ‘experts by statistics’.