While presenting the annual compliance report at GambleAware’s 2021 conference on December 8th, interim chief executive Andrew Rhodes went hard on repeat offenders.
Overall, the interim chief executive seemed pleased with the success the Commission had managed to achieve under his guidance during the past year. Rhodes also acknowledged the improvements from the Commission’s collaboration with the industry players.
He pointed out the positive outcomes on VIP programs, game design, and other critical objectives of the National Strategy attained during the year-in-review.
His focus was, however, not on the positive side of things. Rhodes chose to focus on the number of reoffending companies who decide to settle their case and pay a fine. He said, “We are seeing the same companies committing the same offences for the second or even third times”.
Looking back at the year-in-review, he explained that the fines handed out to firms were the highest of any year since the law came into force in 2005. Fifteen different operations paid fines totalling over £32.1 million during the fiscal year of 2021.
UKGC carried out a full assessment of the business operations of 25 online operators and five land-based operators. As a result of the investigation, the Commission revoked the licences of one operator and nine personal management licence holders.
While expressing his understanding of the industry at large and its precarious state during the global pandemic, he also reminded operators that player protection and the crime-free gambling industry are two of the three pillars the licensing objectives rest on.
Rhodes explained that without these measures, it’d be impossible to allow for legal gambling as required by the law. He called for operators to smart up and treat compliance seriously. The interim chief executive concluded, “adherence should be at the forefront of every operator’s mind”.
A common fear often expressed by gambling firms and lobbying organisations is that stricter rules will incentivise players to take their business elsewhere. Some countries have experienced this exodus as they moved towards regulating online gambling.
This migration of players is, however, difficult to quantify as online gamblers are secretive about their habits. Many online surveys only receive responses numbering in the low thousands.
The argument goes that making rules stricter will only profit black market actors, such as Caribbean-based operators with licences from lenient authorities like the Curacao Gaming Control Board. In an online world, this is an ever-present risk that the authority has to mitigate. Rhodes, however, brushed off such concerns.
“We are not going to be deflected away from that mission, in some sort of race to the bottom, because others are worse. That’s the whole point of having a regulated market.
“We are aware that if you introduce the wrong friction, you can drive consumers to the black market, but we are nowhere near that. Our regulatory posture has changed because there are too many cases that make everyone blush… and that has to stop.” He said.