The United Kingdom Gambling Commission (UKGC) has come under criticism again from the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Gambling Related Harm. The APPG has said that it highly criticises the UKGC’s decision to ask GV Holdings to create a code of conduct in relation to the schemes commonly seen at online casinos and wagering sites for high value customers. Such schemes are frequently known as VIP or Loyalty schemes. GVC Holdings are one of the industry leaders when it comes to online gambling, being the owners of Ladbrokes, Coral, Foxy Bingo, partypoker and others.
One of the fiercest critics of the UKGC’s decision is the APPG’s leader, Carolyn Harris. Harris has been the MP for Swansea East since 2015, and is currently the deputy leader of Welsh Labour. She was one of the lead campaigners in the recent, successful drive to limit the single bet limit on fixed odds betting terminations (FOBTs) to £2.
The APPG group say that the UKGC’s involvement with GVC Holdings is a conflict of interest
Harris stated that she considered the UKGC’s decision to allow GVC Holdings to develop the code of conduct surrounding VIP and Loyalty schemes was wrong, as asking GVC Holdings to do so signified a ‘conflict of interest’. Indeed, GVC Holdings were an odd choice on this occasion by the UKGC as via their Ladbrokes and Coral brands the group was in receipt of a whopping £5.9 million fine in 2019. The UKGC levied the fine as Ladbrokes and Coral were deemed to have failed in their responsibilities towards anti money laundering and social responsibility.
The former Conservative Party leader, Sir Ian Duncan Smith, took this occasion to further express his dissatisfaction with the UKGC, a group for which it seems has zero-to-little respect for. In his latest tirade, he said “The Gambling Commission needs to be reformed. This really does show you where the thinking has gone completely wrong. It’s like putting the mafia in charge of looking into organised crime.”
Neil McArthur, who acts as the Chief Executive of the UKGC, defending the commission’s record as the regulator of all forms of gambling in the United Kingdom. He also said that the UKGC remains committed to protecting US-based consumers, and raising industry standards.
The UKGC has made plenty of regulatory changes over the past few weeks
The UKGC has made some significant changes in the way that the wagering industry operates in recent weeks. In the middle of January 2020, McArthur announced the unsurprising news that online gambling operators in the UK would no longer be able to accept payments made to them by their members via credit cards. Just last week, the UKGC told online gambling operators that they could no longer host slots games were players were able to ‘buy features’ such as bonus spins or a side game. A group of games ‘guilty’ of this were SG’s ‘Montezuma MegaWays’ and Microgaming’s ‘Stumpy McDoodles’.
This APPG group’s criticism of the UKGC is nothing new. As recently as November 2019 the APPG group publishing a report of the situation of online gambling in the UK. The report’s findings were condemned by the UKGC, probably because the report outlined the APPG group’s opinion that the UKGC were ‘not fit for purpose’.
The APPG’s November 2019 reports came in for some UKGC critcism
The APPG’s report put forwards a number of recommendations, the most far-reaching of which was the fixing of a £2 single-bet limit – the same legal limit placed upon all FOBT machines – on all online games including slots, casino games and even sporting bets. The APPG group also wanted VIP schemes and loyalty point schemes to be made illegal.
The UKGC were not the only UK body to be criticised in the report – the problem gambling aid charity GambleAware also came in for criticism for what the APPG group deemed its poor performance.
One thing the APPG group and the UKGC agreed upon, though – the report suggested that using credit cards to fund any form of gambling should not be allowed.
Once the report was published the UKGC defended its track record since it was handed the responsibility of regulating UK online casinos in 2014. It also criticised the report by not backing up its claims with UKGC official data.
The APPG group needs to learn to work with the UKGC, not against it
Once the November 2019 reported had been published, shares in the leading gambling companies in the United Kingdom suffered a slight decline in value. The same is likely to happen again following the latest stinging criticism of the UKGC by the APGG. The question then has to be asked – what is the APGG group hoping to achieve with this constant battering of the UKGC’s reputation?
These are not the best days for the UK’s gambling industry, and the APGG group are not helping. There are plenty of people whom would welcome the collapse of the UK’s gambling industry, but that’s not looking at the bigger picture. The gambling sector in the UK generates around £15 billion every year, and a fifth of that ends up in the Treasury in the form of taxation. There’s the aspect of employment too as the sector provides employment for thousands of people. With no UK gambling industry, all these people would suddenly need to be on the lookout for a new job.
One aspect of UK gambling that that APPG group seems to ignore is that people in the UK will gamble whether it is regulated or not, and adding more and more regulation will see them seek unregulated markets instead, completely out of the remit of any rules and regulations that the UKGC provides. This would lead to a return of the dark dates prior to the establishment of the UKGC in 2014, when the UK’s wagering industry was an unregulated mess.
It would therefore be preferable and almost definitely more beneficial for the APPG and the UKGC to work together but, given Sir Ian Duncan-Smith’s obvious distaste for the UKGC, this seems unlikely to happen any day soon.
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Ari Waknine was born in Brooklyn, New York and was the founder of iGamble Group, an online gaming critique firm that helps players pick online gambling websites that fit their profile, as well as, helping them to increase their winnings. He is also the founder of NewCasinos.org, and is strictly focusing on this project making stronger and better than ever.