The UK is home to some of the most liberal gambling laws in the world. The 2005 Gambling Act paved the way for an industry that has expanded and flourished. Since then, technological innovations have even made it possible to gamble from the comfort of your own home via online casinos and mobile sports betting.
The Gambling Commission is instrumental in ensuring that the industry runs smoothly for both operators and their customers. That involves keeping players safe from harm and making sure that company operations are free from crime. The Gambling Commission was established in 2007, when it took over the reins from the Gaming Board for Great Britain.
For complete clarity over what it does, the Gambling Commission has set out its three main objectives. These include preventing criminal activity in gambling, ensuring that gambling is conducted with fairness and protecting children and vulnerable people from gambling harms and exploitation.
The most fundamental job of the Gambling Commission is as regulator of the UK’s gaming laws. Formally, it is classified as an executive non-departmental public body. This means that it reports to ministers at a distance, in this case the Department for Culture, Media and Sport.
The Gambling Commission’s responsibilities cover an extensive variety of formats, such as sports betting, slot machines, casinos, lotteries and bingo. These range from wagering at physical establishments, to online gambling on the latest tablets and phones. There are some types of gambling that do not fall under the remit of the Gambling Commission, such as spread betting, which is regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority.
As well as keeping the UK’s gambling safe and crime-free, the Gambling Commission provides operators with licenses. Without the necessary licenses, British operators like Bet365, William Hill and GVC would not legally be allowed to offer their services. Any company that wants to offer or advertise gambling services to consumers in England, Wales or Scotland must obtain a license from the Gambling Commission.
As a consumer, a license also serves as a useful badge of authenticity. Operators that have licenses are proven to offer trustworthy services, but the same cannot be said for black-market operators. It’s easy to check if an online casino has an operating license, by scrolling to the bottom of its webpage. There, at the footer, should be the Gambling Commission logo, which links through to the company’s license.
When the Gambling Commission has reason to believe that a company might be breaking the law, it conducts an investigation, often in collaboration with the police. If the regulator finds that the law has been broken, it can issue the offender with fines or, in extreme cases, revoke its license altogether.
Some critics say that the Gambling Commission has failed to keep up with the UK’s rapidly changing gambling scene. The government is currently undertaking a review of the 2005 Gambling Act, something that Prime Minister Boris Johnson pledged to do as part of his election campaign. Pressure from MPs over issues in the gambling industry has been mounting over recent years, with some calling for a ban on advertising gambling services.
The Gambling Related Harms APPG is led by Labour MP Carolyn Harris and Conservative MP Sir Iain Duncan Smith. The group has already lobbied for significant changes in the industry, such as the £2 stake cap on fixed-odds betting terminals. In its most recent report, it took aim at the Gambling Commission, describing it as unfit for purpose and calling for an overhaul of regulation.
The APPG is not alone in coming to this conclusion. The House of Lords Select Committee on the Social and Economic Impact of the Gambling Industry published its report in July. It recommends that the Gambling Commission receive more flexible government funding and that it should show more willingness to withdraw licenses from operators that offend repeatedly.
While the government’s review of the UK’s gambling legislation is still underway, the future of the Gambling Commission remains uncertain. The regulator could be forced to be tougher on the industry, or may even be replaced by a new regulatory body altogether. Until then, it will continue to carry out its vital work in keeping gambling safe.
For now, the Gambling Commission is keen to make gambling a positive experience for all concerned. It recently issued a call for feedback from consumers and those within the industry on recognizing gambling harms. By carrying out consultations like this, it can continue to develop policies that work for everyone and accurately address the key issues.