Regulator confirms tougher approach to enforcement in British gambling market

Out-Law News | 06 Jul 2017 | 3:17 pm | 2 min. read

Gambling operators that breach their regulatory duties in Britain should not expect to be able to settle those cases in future, the regulator has said.

The Gambling Commission has finalised its new enforcement strategy and, in the process, confirmed that it will consider "the full range of enforcement tools" at its disposal where operators breach the rules.

It said operators in breach of the rules had come to expect to be able to settle cases with it, but that this would no longer be the case. The change in approach does not mean that it will automatically open investigations to review an operator's licence, but that option will be pursued in some cases, the regulator said.

"Over time, settlement has become accepted and expected," the Commission said. "Its repeated use is not creating sufficient deterrent and so we want operators to be clear that when we are alerted to a breach the full range of enforcement tools will be considered. We proposed that licence review should be placed on an equal footing with other enforcement tools. This provides us with a full range of enforcement options, from which we can select the most appropriate."

"The Commission deals with a significant number of issues each year, the vast majority of which are dealt with without recourse to formal sanction. However, in fairness to consumers and those operators who are acting responsibly, we will not tolerate those who repeatedly breach or are recalcitrant towards their licensing obligations. They should anticipate the use of the option of a review of their licence and the full range of sanctions available through that process," it said.

The Commission said that it will continue to turn to regulatory settlement to drive compliance "in situations where we think it is fit for purpose".

"Where the facts are agreed, settlement can establish an efficient and effective way to determine an outcome and sanction, giving us scope to divert resources to focus on other priorities, and for the licensee to do the same," it said.

In addition to ending the presumption towards settlement, the Commission also confirmed it intends to issue more severe financial penalties against operators that breach the rules, particularly where it sees "systemic and repeated failings", and that it could issue time-limited discounts on fines in some cases. It rejected calls from some stakeholders to set specific time-limits for operators wishing to benefit from discounts and on how fines would be calculated.

The Commission had consulted on a draft new enforcement strategy earlier this year. The new approach, set out in its response (10-page / 87KB PDF) to that consultation exercise, reflects proposals the Commission put forward at its 'Raising Standards' conference in November last year, gambling law expert Christopher Rees-Gay of Pinsent Masons, the law firm behind Out-Law.com, said.

"The changes in relation to moving away from settlement, increased fines and time-limited discounts, cement the new robust stance that the Commission is adopting to deal with operators that breach the regulations," Rees-Gay.