Gambling Commission publishes Annual Report & Accounts 2019-20

The Gambling Commission has belatedly published its Annual Report & Accounts for 2019-20 (that you can download below).

Of particular note are the following:

1. The absence of any reference within the Report to the damning criticisms made in relation to the Commission within the June 2020 report of the House of Commons Public Accounts Committee, although the Commission’s Chair Bill Moyes does make the following comment in relation to the February 2020 National Audit Office report on “Gambling regulation: problem gambling and protecting vulnerable people”:

Following the National Audit Office (NAO) report earlier this year, the Commission is addressing recommendations on suggestions where it can improve its operations and strengthen its regulation including on evaluating the impact of our work and continuing to develop a deeper understanding of the causes and impacts of gambling related harm. The report also recommended that the suitability of the current licence fee model should be reviewed. That work is underway and we look forward to the outcome of the fees review which will be undertaken by DCMS.

2. The following comments within the Report by the Commission’s Chief Executive on the subject of “Changes in the gambling market”:

We know that 24.7 million people in Great Britain gamble, which represents a reduction in overall participation levels. The way consumers gamble has changed, with an increase in online gambling participation and a continued rise in gambling on mobile phones.

Alongside a reduction in overall participation levels, Gross Gambling Yield has also reduced to £14.3 billion, with 2,652 operators now in the market. We have also seen further consolidation of the GB gambling market and an increasingly global outlook from the largest operators as they look for opportunities in the United States and elsewhere in the world.

The last 12 months has seen an increase in online gambling. 11 million people now gamble online.

An estimated 5.5 million people now gamble through their mobile phone – an increase of approximately 1.2 million from the previous year – while usage of PCs, laptops and tablets to gamble has declined. Players are also increasingly playing online slots and higher intensity products such as in-play betting4.

The number of licensed gambling premises has fallen to 9,745 which mainly accounts for the reduction in betting shops. The number of machines in premises has increased from 179,766 to 185,203. This has been driven, in part, by an expansion in the number of machines in arcades and bingo halls.

3. The Report goes on to summarise key activities undertaken by the Commission to “raise standards in the gambling market”, including the following:

We undertook an extensive programme of compliance activity including; completing 101 full assessments of 90 operators; 55 of these were of online operators and 35 were of land-based operators. Additionally, we completed 257 targeted assessments of 185 operators; 110 of these were of online operators and 75 were of land-based operators. We also carried out 33 website reviews, 234 security audits and reviewed 61 personal licences as part of our regulatory work.

We have seen a growth in our enforcement activity against land and online based operators and personal licence holders. We have continued to hold operators to account for failings around anti-money laundering, social responsibility controls and customer interaction issues. Our casework led to the suspensions of seven online operators and 11 licence revocations. 12 operators received financial penalty packages or made regulatory settlements.

In 2019-20, our intelligence team, who provide a confidential ear to the industry and the public, as well as being our main gateway to partner agencies such as the National Crime Agency, international law enforcement organisations, and sports governing bodies, generated 3,239 intelligence reports, relating to a number of issues including social media lotteries, unlicensed remote operators and money laundering. 92 Incident Referral Forms (IRFs) were submitted by the unit to Incident Management Group (IMG) for consideration.

Our Sports Betting Intelligence Unit received 635 reports which included issues such as suspicious betting activity, sports rules breaches, misuse of inside information, Gambling Act offences or other criminality. Football and tennis continue to be the source for the majority of these calls and reports.

We have continued to work to shut down illegal gambling, working closely with law enforcement agencies, the UK Cyber Centre and consumers to gather intelligence and take action against black market gambling.

We have assessed the ongoing suitability of our licensees by using a variety of tools, such as regulatory data and interaction with stakeholders. In the past year we have processed 236 operator licence applications, with 2,056 individual