David Clifton comments on BBC News item regarding gambling complaints

David Clifton is quoted in an EGR Intel article entitled “No plans to introduce online staking limits, says Gambling Commission” (that can be downloaded below) reporting on both:

David’s comments are confined to the BBC News item that reported the number of gamblers complaining about British betting firms to have risen almost 5,000% in the past five years.

In David’s view, the BBC ignored:

  • fundamental changes that occurred on introduction in the UK of the place of consumption licensing regime in November 2014 (meaning that all remote gambling operators targeting UK customers are now subject to UK regulation, compared with less than 15% before November 2014) and
  • the gambling industry’s constructive response to the Gambling Commission’s campaign between 2015 and 2018 to “put more power in the hands of the consumer”, one consequence of which has been to place considerably more emphasis on making consumers aware of their right to complain about gambling businesses.

David also pointed out that the BBC had made no mention of:

  • the proportion of complaints that had been resolved by operators at the first stage of the complaints process (which has historically been a high proportion) or the findings of ADR entities in relation to the relatively small number of unresolved disputes, or
  • the recent work of the CMA (and the online gambling sector’s positive response to that work) that has served to bring about a marked improvement in online gambling operators’ consumer protection practices and, it is to be assumed, a corresponding reduction in volume of consumer complaints.

The EGR article goes on to feature reactions to the Panorama programme, with particular criticism from  some commentators reserved for the following remarks made during the programme by the CEO of the Gambling Commission, Neil McArthur: “we’ve not yet reached a point where we would impose limits on stakes or limits on prizes. The information operators have on customers means they ought to be able to keep players safe and playing with money they can afford and allowing them to play in a way the keeps them protected from risk of problem gambling.” 

Whilst of some immediate reassurance to online gambling operators currently licensed by the Commission, the regulator will be focusing its attention on the extent to which the industry will now take effective steps to ensure that their customers do not gamble with more than they can afford.

With the uncertainty currently surrounding UK politics, it also needs to be borne in mind that, earlier this year, Tom Watson, Deputy Leader of the Labour Party proposed:

  • imposition of mandatory limits on online gambling spending, staking and speed of play, on the basis that “online gambling companies have a responsibility to protect their customers from placing bets that they cannot afford, but too often, these operators have either neglected the care of their customers or have been too slow in their due diligence” and
  • the introduction of a new “E Category” to gambling legislation to regulate online gambling products with a view to correcting what it sees as a regulatory imbalance between online and land-based gaming products.