The UK regulator’s chief Sarah Harrison struck an authoritative tone at an industry event last week, warning executives they will face higher fines for non-compliance, and even licence ‘reviews’ for repeat offenders.
[dropcap]B[/dropcap]ritain’s bookmakers have been warned they risk losing their licences if they do not step up their efforts to protect players and prevent money laundering.
At an event organised by the regulator, chief executive of the Gambling Commission Sarah Harrison told industry executives that she would be hiking up penalties for those who do not comply with regulations, and adopting still more punitive measures for repeat offenders.
“You need to step up the pace of change: in how you handle customer complaints; ensure advertising is clear; simplify terms and conditions; develop your risk management strategies on money laundering; and evaluate the impact of social responsibility initiatives,” she said at the ‘Raising Standards Conference: Accelerating the pace of change’.
One of the principles in the Commission’s existing statement for licensing and regulation is a preference for “pursuing compliance through means that stop short of a licence review.”
In other words, operators found guilty of non-compliance have thus far been able to make a regulatory settlement, usually a sum of money, to prevent further action.
However, the Commission is now adopting a far more punitive approach by proposing to remove this “bias in favour of settlement,” and give more emphasis on reviewing, potentially revoking, the offending operator’s licence.
“Put simply we will use the right tool for the job,” Harrison went on. “Parliament gave us a wide range of regulatory tools for a reason. Yes, we should use them proportionately, but adopting a blanket approach of seeking a regulatory settlement as a matter of course is not the right way to achieve that proportionality.”
The regulator is also proposing changes to its statement on financial penalties “with the likelihood of higher penalties going forward, in particular where we see systemic and repeated failings.”
“Our principles on penalties already reflect the need to remove profits from non-compliance, take account of costs and consumer harm, and deter poor compliance,” said the chief exec. “But higher penalties are likely if we do not see behaviour changing.”
While this consultation on enforcement policy changes will develop over the coming months, the regulator made it clear that “all cases relating to breaches, dating from now, will be likely to attract higher penalties, should that be a necessary outcome.”
Harrison also expressed her appreciation for those UK operators that have and do come forward themselves, to declare incidents of non-compliance, and stressed that in these cases “we would certainly consider resolution through settlement rather than licence review.”