Labour proposes a new gambling ombudsman

Deputy Leader of The Labour Party, Tom Watson, has today delivered a speech to the think-tank Demos in which he proposes the establishment of a ‘new gambling ombudsman to protect UK consumers’. You can see and hear him delivering his speech on FacebookLive here.

His speech was previewed by:

This latest speech follows (a) one delivered by him in February 2019 when, on behalf of the Labour Party, he proposed a crackdown on the regulation of online gambling and (b) his announcement of a radical overhaul of gambling regulation and advertising if the Labour Party comes into power in the UK.

This is not the first time that creation of a gambling ombudsman has been proposed. It was the subject of a speech by the then Gambling Commissioner, Walter Merricks, in November 2016 at the Gambling Commission’s first ever “Raising Standards” Conference. We await to see if this proposal gains greater traction now than it did then.


  1. Tom Watson has now published the text of his speech on his website. You can access it here or download it below. You can also download an article in Parliament’s magazine The House entitled “Tom Watson: Gambling companies should have to reapply for their licences and undergo proper scrutiny” that features the same argument that he presented in a letter addressed to the Chief Executive of the Gambling Commission and to the Culture Secretary in May 2019, questioning the integrity of many online casino operators, on which we have previously reported.
  2. On 19 June 2019, under the heading “Bookmakers pledge £100m to avoid gambling crackdown”, the BBC reported on a letter from William Hill, Coral Ladbroke, Betfair Paddy Power, Skybet and bet365 to the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, in which they offered to increase their voluntary RET (i.e. research, education and treatment of problem gambling) donations from 0.1% of their respective GGY to 1% over the next five years, stating “we are committing to collaborate to address gambling-related harm with the priority of protecting the young and vulnerable.” This offer had previously been made by GVC (owner of Coral Ladbroke) alone, as reported in David Clifton’s “Licensing Expert” article last month for SBC News entitled “UK stakeholders point towards ‘safety first’ approach to player protection”.
  3. Gambling Compliance has reported that “UK Gambling Commission officials are pushing back against a Labour politician’s call for review of all online gambling licences, but are sympathetic to his proposal for an ombudsman to help settle player complaints”. They quote Neil McArthur, CEO of the Gambling Commission as saying:
    • “An extensive review of licences granted since the 2014 launch of online gambling legislation is not needed because licensees are subject to ongoing ‘dynamic risk assessments’ and those that fall short ‘have been the subject of significant scrutiny”.
    • “We are constantly taking judgements on their levels of compliance. We will be tough when we find operators bending the rules or failing to meet our expectations, but we also want to try and minimise the need for such action by providing advice, a programme of support material and compliance activity to help operators get things right in the first place”.