Praising the “welcome change in attitude” at a number of major gaming companies, GC chairman Philip Graf hinted at greater levels of accountability for firms that fail to put the consumer at the heart of their business.
[dropcap]C[/dropcap]onsumer protections and tougher sanctions were the core themes of the UK Gambling Commission’s latest annual report, which saw the regulator release some of the latest statistics on the nation’s gambling habits and set out its strategic priorities for the coming year.
“Over the past two years we have emphasised to boards and business owners the importance of putting consumers at the heart of business culture and practice, and managing the risks of gambling related harm and money laundering,” Philip Graf, chair of the Gambling Commission, said in his opening statement.
“There has no doubt been a very welcome change in attitude in a number of major companies. However, whilst there has been a great deal of activity, it is also clear that much still needs to be done, including by my successors, to deliver real impact.”
Stressing the consumer-oriented focus of the GC’s regulatory activities, Graf hinted that the buck would stop at board- and owner-level within gaming companies that were failing in their duty to minimise gambling-related harm. “The new social responsibility code requirements and annual assurance statements will bring important insight into how industry leaders are stepping up to this challenge,” he added.
Last year in 2015, the online (remote) gaming sector overtook landbased betting for the first time to become the UK’s largest gaming sector, accounting for around £3.48bn (€4.57bn) of Gross Gambling Yield per annum. Half of all respondents to a GC participation survey said they had previously gambled on a phone or a tablet.
We plan, later in the year, to begin work on a new forward strategy which will help support our future work to keep gambling fair and safe for all consumers.
This growth of mobile gaming was partly reflected in a shift in participation among younger people, with 18-24 year-olds now accounting for 33 percent of the market. Meanwhile, more than half of all 45-54 year-olds said they participated in some form of gambling.
“We will continue to work to put consumers at the heart of regulation,” CEO Sarah Harrisson stated. “This will include building on vital work to protect the most vulnerable, and setting standards for responsible and safe gambling. Here, making progress on delivering the new three-year National Responsible Gambling Strategy will be critical.”
Across 2015 and 2016, the Gambling Commission has started to toughen up its approach to corporate accountability, introducing assurance statements meaning that individuals at board level will account for the ways operators work to keep gaming safe for consumers.
High-profile cases such as Rank, Paddy Power and Betfred saw the GC taking a robust stand against money-laundering and social responsibility infringements, although some industry commentators have criticised the relatively low level of the voluntary settlements reached with the biggest players.
“We have launched a change programme to develop our people,” added Harrison. “And we plan, later in the year, to begin work on a new forward strategy which will help support our future work to keep gambling fair and safe for all consumers.”