Possibly prompted by questions posed to its Chief Executive by the House of Commons Public Accounts Committee on 27 April 2020, the Gambling Commission has today (29 April 2020) published an announcement entitled “Gambling Commission directs £9m to boost resilience of gambling harm treatment services during Covid-19” that states as follows:
Millions of pounds paid by gambling operators for their regulatory failings is to be used to help charities, that provide treatment and support for people experiencing gambling harm, during the Covid-19 crisis.
Some £9m in funds from regulatory settlements will be paid to GambleAware – a commissioning charity that supports initiatives to tackle gambling related harm across the country.
The money, which will be for use by GambleAware and its partners, will be directed to help ensure treatment and support services can continue to operate effectively and withstand additional pressures on their services caused by the Covid-19 outbreak. The funds, which are taken from the regulatory settlements the Commission places on operators for social responsibility, customer interaction and money laundering failings, will help to address any increase in demand for such services, support the move of services to alternative models of delivery (such as online) and will build resilience in the treatment and support system during a period of uncertainty.
Research undertaken by the Commission indicates that gambling participation overall has come down since lockdown started, reflecting the closure of land based venues and cancellation of sporting events. However, there is evidence that some people are increasing their use of certain gambling products such as online slots, poker, casino gaming and virtual sports.
William Moyes, Chairman of the Gambling Commission, said:
“In the current climate, and with the potential risks to British consumers in mind, we have fast-tracked this settlement-driven funding to GambleAware so their work to prevent gambling harms and award grants can continue seamlessly. In addition to a tough and flexible regulatory system, it’s vital that organisations such as GambleAware and their partners can continue the great work they do, especially at times when there is an elevated risk of gambling harm with people staying at home due to social distancing measures. Through the use of regulatory action to prevent harm, such as the ban of credit for gambling, alongside the use of regulatory settlements to support treatment services, the Commission is taking wide ranging action to address the additional risk of harm that may come from Covid-19.”
Marc Etches, CEO of GambleAware, said:
“We welcome the receipt of these regulatory settlements at this uncertain time. Guided by a public health model, GambleAware commissions prevention and treatment services across England, Scotland and Wales in partnership with expert organisations and agencies, including the NHS. These funds will enable us to provide greater security around the funding of the National Gambling Treatment Service, and help keep people safe from gambling harms.”
Since January 2020 alone, the Commission’s regulatory action has led to the industry paying £27m in penalty packages. The action was taken for systemic failings around anti-money laundering, social responsibility and VIP practices. So far this year the Commission has also suspended the operating licences of four online operators for compliance-related issues.