The UK in the News — Weekly Round-up for June 29, 2018

New Problem Gambling Body Calls For Mandatory Levy On Online Gambling Operators

Gambling With Lives wants operators to pay 1 percent of gross profits to combat compulsive gambling

In its latest anti-gambling crusade, the Daily Mail newspaper in the UK reports the formation of a new problem gambling action group titled Gambling With Lives and publicises its demand that government impose a 1 percent mandatory problem gambling levy calculated on gross profits on all UK licensed online gambling operators.

The new body was founded by parents who have experienced loss due to gambling addiction, and founder Liz Ritchie told the Mail that she was motivated following the suicide last year of her 24-year-old son Jack, who was addicted to online gambling.

Ritchie told the newspaper that the levy would be used to fund better treatment for addicts and support for families, and claimed that gambling addicts were up to three times more likely to attempt suicide than those fighting other addictions, and needed better support.

The lobbying group is also calling for a maximum GBP 2 stake for online casino and slot games, and for greater recognition of gambling as a public health issue.

The Mail reiterates its claims based on Gambling Commission statistics that Britain has an estimated 430,000 adult gambling addicts, with 1.57million more said to be ‘at risk’ of developing a real addiction. There are 25,000 11- to 16-year-olds classified as ‘problem gamblers’, with another 36,000 deemed ‘at risk’.

Conservative Party peer Lord Chadlington, who has campaigned for tougher controls for online gambling, said he would support the 1 percent levy to combat what he called a “gambling epidemic” whilst a spokesperson for GamblingAware said the charity would like to see the introduction of a statutory levy, revealing that in 2016 it received just GBP 8 million, which rose to GBP 9 million last year from voluntary contributions from the industry.

In a deal with the previous Labour Government in 2007 operators are asked for a 0.1 percent voluntary contribution.

If government accepted the action group’s 1 percent levy proposal it would generate GBP 138 million based on current industry-wide financial statistics.

Stronger Protection For Minors, Says Gambling Commission

Commission acts on recommendations from advisers Responsible Gambling Strategy Board

The U.K. Gambling Commission has set out further commitments to protecting children and young people from the dangers of gambling, building on work already underway in this area.

The Commission asked its expert advisers for specific advice on the critical theme of children, young people and gambling. Bringing together existing work and acting on the advice provided by the Responsible Gambling Strategy Board (RGSB), the Commission’s strengthened focus seeks to ensure the right protections are in place to reduce the risk of harm to children and young people.

In a statement this week, the gambling regulator has called for all those responsible for safeguarding children, to work together with the Commission to address the wide range of issues identified in RGSB’s advice. Actions are needed to address:

  • Access and exposure to gambling by children and young people.
  • Digital and online risks.
  • Preventative education and treatment.
  • Evidence collection and consumer engagement.

Tim Miller, executive director at the Gambling Commission, said in the statement:

“We have a strong commitment to protecting children and young people from the harm gambling can pose – it’s at the heart of how we regulate. We asked our expert advisers, the Responsible Gambling Strategy Board, to consider this critical theme. The advice helps us to refocus and reinforce what we are doing already, and what we need to do next. For example, this year we will be carrying out targeted compliance and enforcement activity to identify and tackle any weaknesses in the age verification processes.

“Safeguarding children in a digital age is complex, and what both RGSB and our research has highlighted is that it takes a multi-faceted approach by us, government, educators, gambling firms and parents. It will take firm ongoing commitments from the Commission as gambling regulator, but also from all of those with a part to play.”

Hanratty To Serve As Senet Group CEO

Succeeds George Kidd

UK Independent problem gambling organisation Senet Group has appointed Sarah Hanratty as its new chief executive succeeding George Kidd who stepped down at the beginning of this month.

Hanratty currently serves as deputy chief executive and director of corporate affairs at the not-for-profit Portman Group, funded by eight member companies, and tasked in overseeing responsibility measures of alcoholic drinks producers in the UK.

Gillian Wilmot, Chairman of the Senet Group, said:

“Sarah brings a wealth of experience in effecting change across the alcohol sector and has done much to secure its sustainability as a category which adds positively to society and our national way of life.”

Hanratty was named as one of Cranfield School of Management’s 100 Women to Watch List 2017. Her career began in local government and she is a Member of the Company of Public Relations Practitioners, Women on Boards, PRCA and Chartered Institute of Public Relations (MCIPR).

UK Gambling Commission Warns Industry Again

Chief executive warns on heavier fines for non-compliance with AML and problem gambling regulations

The UK Gambling Commission issued a further warning Thursday that betting companies licensed in its jurisdiction will face a “relentless escalation” in financial penalties if they do not step up controls in areas such as money laundering and problem gamblers.

The Commission has recently issued million pound sterling fines to non-compliant gambling companies, the latest being a GBP 2 million fine on Kindred Group subsidiary 32Red online casino (see previous InfoPowa report).

In a statement Thursday the regulator revealed that it issued GBP 18 million worth of fines in the 12 months to April 1, up from just GBP 1.6 million a year earlier.

CEO Neil McArthur warned that fines would escalate, and the Commission could take tougher regulatory action, such as revoking licensing.

The Commission has released an “enforcement report” detailing cases where betting groups have failed to adhere to gambling regulations. This includes 10 occasions in which stolen money was used to gamble, including when the source of funds was taken from employers or through defrauding elderly victims. In other cases, inadequate checks were made on “VIP customers” who were losing hundreds of thousands of pounds, despite exhibiting signs of being problem gamblers.

McArthur said in the Commission statement:

“We recognised that our approach to enforcement has been effective to an extent, [but] wasn’t driving the pace of change and a culture of continuous improvement. That’s why we communicated we would make this step change in terms of penalty packages. We’ve made it clear that we will continue to be firm but fair. The phrase I’ve tended to use is there will be ‘relentless escalation’ if they don’t get compliance levels right, until we get the standards we expect.”