In the United Kingdom all gambling (online and offline) has been regulated since the introduction of the Gambling Act 2005. When this act came into being, so too did the United Kingdom Gambling Commission (UKGC). This regulatory body acquired full powers in 2007, taking over the responsibilities of the Gaming Board for Great Britain.
As a result, the UKGC is responsible for the regulation of arcades, betting, bingo, casinos, slot machines and lotteries. It does not, however, have power over spread betting, as this is regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA).
At the same time, the Commission has full responsibility over the remote gambling scene in the UK, including online gambling, telephone betting, or gambling via other communication devices.
In 2013, the National Lottery Commission, which was the sole body responsible for regulating the National Lottery, also became a part of the UKGC.
The Responsibilities of the UKGC
There are certain areas that the Gambling Commission has sole power over, with its aims and objectives being noted as the following:
“…to keep crime out of gambling, to ensure that gambling is conducted fairly and openly, and to protect children and vulnerable people”.
In the 2018-19 period, the UKGC launched a new business plan, which highlighted its goals of improving industry standards, consumer protections and public protection from gambling related harm. Not long after, it invited the public to comment on how improvements could be made to the quality and timeliness of its statistics on problem gambling.
The Commission is also responsible for issuing gambling licences to operators. It can also levy fines against them and revoke those licences. Furthermore, the UKGC is tasked with the investigation and prosecution of illegal gambling. It is also up to the body to advise the national and local governments on gambling-related problems.
When it comes to remote gambling, the Commission will only issue licences to operators who have their remote gambling equipment in the territory of Great Britain. Those operators based outside of the UK, but who do wish to advertise their services to England, Scotland, and Wales, must obtain an alternate licence from the UKGC, which came about following the Gambling (Licensing and Advertising) Act 2014.
This act changed the licensing requirements, so that any company looking to advertise gambling and take bets from players in England, Scotland, or Wales, must hold a specific licence. Previously, this was not required, meaning any operator in a whitelist jurisdiction could advertise their services to Great Britain’s players without such a licence.
Licensee must also act in accordance with their licence regulations, and the Commission must monitor these companies to ensure that this is the case. The body can visit any of its licensees and examine their financial statistics. Specialists can then issue recommendations for alterations if need be. Supplementary licence conditions can also be set or removed by the Commission.
It is also the case that regulatory actions can be taken against any licensee that breaches the conditions of the rules and regulations. These actions can range from being issued with a warning through to the imposition of a financial penalty. In extreme situations, licences can be revoked by the UKGC.
Criticism Levied Against the UKGC
The Gambling Commission, like other regulatory bodies, has not gone without its fair share of criticism throughout its years of operation. Many aimed their uproar at the body for not preventing the spread of fixed odds betting terminals (FOBTs) across the high street. This, many said, was due to the responsibility for planning permission on these moving from local authorities to the Gambling Commission.
In 2014, online bookmaker Canbet went into receivership whilst owing millions to its customers. The destruction of the site raised a variety of questions on the ability of the Commission to protect its UK customers from rogue traders. However, UK online regulation was only handed over to the Commission in November of 2014. The same sort of issue arose in September of that year, when BetButler closed. Concerns over pay out times and the financial state of the company were raised many months prior to this happening. The Commission was once again criticised at this point.
The regulatory body has also been forced into action to review the laws and regulations in place in recent times. Many have said that the legislation introduced in 2005 is not suitable for today’s digital age of gambling. An investigation began in 2020 and a whitepaper on potential changes was delivered in 2023 – many months after it was supposed to arrive.