House of Commons committee slams gambling regulator for being ‘toothless’

Yahoo Finance UK
Photo: Getty
Photo: Getty

A House of Commons committee criticised the gambling industry for failing to protect consumers, and recommended a league table of betting companies based on their behaviour towards customers.

The Public Accounts Committee said the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport and the Gambling Commission it oversees have an “unacceptably weak understanding” of the impact of gambling harms and lack measurable targets for reducing them.

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Meg Hillier MP, Chair of the Committee, said: “What has emerged in evidence is a picture of a torpid, toothless regulator that doesn’t seem terribly interested in either the harms it exists to reduce or the means it might use to achieve that.

“The Commission needs a radical overhaul: it must be quicker at responding to problems, update company licence conditions to protect vulnerable consumers and beef up those consumers’ rights to redress when it fails.”

She said these issues should be a priority for the government.

The committee’s statement also noted that when gambling operators fail to act responsibly, consumers do not have the same rights to redress as in other sectors.

Moreover, it said this is worrying because there are an estimated 395,000 problem gamblers in the UK, with a further 1.8 million people ‘at risk.’

It believes now that the temporary ban on gambling ads during the COIVD-19 lockdown has been lifted, the commission should provide an update on gambling patterns and industry behaviour during the pandemic, and any regulatory action it has taken.

The idea of a league table, which it referred to as a reputational tool, is to name-and-shame poor performers. Its other suggestions include investigating the impact of fixed odds betting that falls under “lottery” legislation and is accessible by 16 and 17-year-olds.

It also called on the commission to explain how it will improve the data and intelligence it uses to identify problem areas and to enable it to intervene quickly, including taking advantage of any opportunities presented by big data. 

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