| MPs say
regulator is toothless and torpid and needs to focus on prevention of harm not
The UK's gambling regulator and
the government department that manages it have an "unacceptably weak
understanding" of the harms of gambling, according to a
Parliament's Public Accounts Committee (PAC) said the
"toothless" Gambling Commission also did not have measurable targets for
helping problem gamblers.
It called the Department for Digital,
Culture, Media & Sport "complacent". The report goes on to critique the
failures by the DCMS and the Gambling Commission to help the estimated 395,000
problem gamblers in the UK and a further 1.8 million people who are considered
The commission responded by insisting it had tightened player
In the PAC's report criticism of the approach to
preventing problem gambling it said;
"The government has approached
other public health issues on the basis that prevention is better than cure,"
said the report by the committee, which scrutinises the value for money of
"However, the department was unwilling to accept
the premise that increasing the commission's budget to prevent harm would be
preferable to spending on treating problem gamblers."
It compared the
£19m in licence fees the Gambling Commission gathered in the 2019
financial year with the industry's £11.3bn revenues. The gambling
industry itself spends £60m in treating problem
What has emerged in evidence is a picture of a torpid,
toothless regulator that doesnt seem terribly interested in either the
harms it exists to reduce or the means it might use to achieve that, said
Meg Hillier MP, chair of the committee.
"The commission needs a radical
overhaul: it must be quicker at responding to problems, update company licence
conditions to protect vulnerable consumers and beef up those consumers' rights
to redress when it fails."
In a statement, the industrys Betting
and Gaming Council said gambling firms were working hard to raise standards:
Our industry is already heavily regulated. We mustnt drive
customers to offshore, black-market, illegal operators that dont have any
of our safeguards, and we do want to see more action taken against the
Gambling with Lives, which was set up by
friends and family of people who have killed themselves because of gambling
problems, welcomed the findings. This report clearly sets out the failure
of regulation of gambling operators who push addictive online gambling products
to young people via aggressive advertising.
The Tory MP James
Wild, who sits on the committee, said: The regulator is not at the races
it works at a glacial pace, has no targets to reduce levels of harm, and
is behind the curve on online gaming.
Another Tory MP on the
committee, Richard Holden, said: The lack of any targets or real action
to reduce problem gambling is appalling especially when we know the
horrendous impact it can have on individuals and their families.
A DCMS spokesperson said: "We are absolutely committed to protecting
people from the risks of gambling related harm and recognise there is more to
do. "We have been clear that we will review the Gambling Act to ensure it is
fit for the digital age."