The UKGC has released its 3 year strategy outlining fresh expectations for businesses and personal license holders.
The regulator has pledged to improve the standards of conduct and competence licence holders are held to through a step up in licensing, compliance, and enforcement activity. The authority will continue to regulate to reduce the risk of gambling related harm and ensure that compliance culture permeates licensed businesses.
So what does the next few years have in store for operators in terms of regulations and expectations? We examine the UKGC’s strategic aims.
Expectations of operators
The regulator has made it clear that it expects operators to demonstrate more than merely transactional requirements. Beyond compliance with the UKGC’s strategic aims there is an implication that operators must buy in to the end goal: higher industry standards.
The Commission explicitly stated that licensed businesses will be expected to play an active role in raising standards of consumer welfare, through industry wide collaboration to reduce the risk of gambling harm, innovation in the areas of customer safety and development of risk analysis technology.
These requirements mirror the increasingly tough stance the UKGC has taken in recent years, a stance mirrored by regulators worldwide. Operators will need to be exceedingly careful in how they conduct themselves from entry to C-Level, as the regulator has stated no professional is beyond scrutiny.
Children and vulnerable groups
Proactivity is key here, so it is advisable to ensure that up to date UK advertising and customer interaction training is a priority going forward. The UKGC listed children and vulnerable groups as number one on its list of strategic aims. It underlined that “our role is to ensure licence holders are acting to minimise the risk of harm.”
This will mean that that the UKGC will identify and respond to developments in gambling products or services that may pose a risk of harm. Operators should keep this in mind when launching new online offerings, they must ensure products cannot exploit vulnerable groups, in addition to proactively beefing up screening protocols.
To enhance the safety of vulnerable groups, the authority will continue to evolve License Conditions and Codes of Practice at every stage of the consumer journey. In addition the Commission will be striving to strengthen the evidence base for policy making and identify new controls to be implemented by licence holders.
One of the more controversial and potentially ‘game changing’ potential policies, is the regulators proposition to ‘name and shame’ license holders with poor compliance records. The Commission is aiming to explore the possibility of publishing license holder information to consumers, in an effort to add reputational incentives to raise standards. In an industry where marketing is so critical, reputation is everything, so a firm focus on responsible gambling training is essential to avoid crisis management.
The regulator has stated that licensees will be expected to demonstrate progress in improving standards of fair play. This will involve improving the fairness of gambling products, by confirming that new products are sufficiently tested and comply with revised technical standards. The regulator will ensure license holders present product information, as well as terms and conditions, in a way that is clear and easily understood to enable more informed consumer choice. Changes to these requirements will be ongoing as the authority continues to engage with the latest research into player experience of gambling products.
The Commission has identified effective complaints and feedback processes as key indicators of consumer confidence in the industry. It will therefore work to ensure operators have appropriate complaints procedures, in line with UKGC guidance, that are accessible to consumers.
The Commission noted that the public perception of gambling in the UK has fallen by 20% since 2008, with only 29% of adults believing games are fair and companies can be trusted. The authority will work to understand what is causing this rising negativity, what it means, how it will affect gambling behaviour and how regulation can best be employed to help consumers in future.
The authority will keep updating the Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing Risk Assessment to reflect current risks, so operators are advised to invest in up to date AML/CFT training. In addition, it will safeguard license processes, whilst ensuring it has the capability to manage the risks associated with complex corporate entities.
The UKGC will continue to tackle illegal providers who are offering unlicensed gambling to consumers in Great Britain, prevent money laundering and terrorist financing, manage risks to betting integrity and work to stop event manipulation.
Improving gambling regulation
The UKGC is essentially ‘gearing up’ by overhauling it’s internal structure to face modern industry scruples, so operators should expect to come under greater scrutiny than ever before.
Specifically, the regulator will be investing in staff skills, workplace diversity and organisational culture to maximise efficiency and regulatory effectiveness. The Commission will also harness new technology that can assist in more effective regulation as well as automate systems and processes to free up resources for frontline work. Operators should therefore expect the authority to begin to hand out sanctions, fines and revocations in both greater volume and frequency.
A broad emphasis on compliance training will be required as the review of the Gambling Act continues, as the UKGC will continue to support the government with advice and data, and implement recommendations from the NAO, PAC and House of Lords Select Committee.
The big picture
What is left unsaid in this plan is perhaps more portentous than the requirements that will be put in place in the immediate future. iGaming has entered a negative feedback loop, whereby increasing public disdain begets increased scrutiny from the UKGC and UK government.
To avoid strangling a burgeoning and prosperous industry, operators need to invest in education, not just to cover transactional requirements, but to expand the knowledge of employees to the wider issues affecting the industry they work for. Building up a strong compliance culture tied into fun but ethical products will not only bolster consumer interest, but damp down opposition, thereby reducing regulatory scrutiny whilst improving customer experience.
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