National Audit Office questions Commission’s ability to protect consumers

The National Audit Office has questioned the Commission’s ability to protect consumers.

The National Audit Office (NAO), the UK parliamentary body responsible for auditing government departments and public bodies, has questioned the ability of the UK Gambling Commission to protect consumers.

A report ordered by the House of Commons stated that the Commission is “unlikely to be fully effective in addressing risks and harms to consumers.”

This news comes just after the online casino brand, Mr Green, was fined £3m for regulatory failings.

The NAO report

The report highlighted several deficiencies in the Commission’s ability to enforce licensing conditions, protect consumers and effectively measure the end results of its regulatory work. The report began by looking at the Commission’s goal of protecting consumers.

In the UK problem gambling rates have remained fairly consistent since 2012 with approximately 395,000 problem gamblers and 1.8m adults who are considered at risk of harm from gambling. Although the Commission has always said its goal is to reduce these figures, the NAO report says the regulator has yet to explain what sort of reduction, specify a time frame and explain what would be considered progress towards it goal. The regulator also has yet to explain how it determines who is at risk of gambling-related harm.

The NAO report said: “Regulators need clear, measurable objectives so their teams and the external stakeholders they work with have a common understanding of what they are aiming to achieve and can judge progress.

“The Commission has translated its statutory objectives and overall aim to make gambling safer into strategic priorities, business plan activities and high-level outcomes it wants to achieve. However, it has not yet developed these high-level outcomes into detailed, measurable success criteria against which to judge progress.”

When It comes to keeping consumers, the report highlights that there are gaps in the data and intelligence the Commission uses to identify problems that gamblers are experiencing. The report highlighted this was more apparent in the land-based gambling space. Local licensing authorities are responsible for inspecting and analyzing land-based venues. However, the report highlighted that 119 authorities did not conduct any inspections for the year ending 31 March 2019 and that 60 authorities have failed to do so in the past three years.

The report highlights that the Commission failed to make full use of its data to identify consumer issues and ultimately concluded that the regulator does not have a full understanding of the impact of its work.

The NAO also questioned the Commission’s ability to govern the gambling industry as it continues to change over time. According to the report, because the Commission is unable to change the funding models it cannot incest in new skills to address new risks that are beginning to emerge.

Going forward, the NAO advised the Commission to establish a clearer definition of its consumer protection goals so that they can be measured and tracked over time. The regulator was also advised to make better use of its available intelligence and to develop a better strategy to help raise operator standards in the country.

Input from the Department of Culture, Media and Sport

The NAO report suggested that input is required from the Department of Culture, Media and Sport. The report said that the Commission should look to establish a deeper understanding of gambling harms and how technological and social developments have affected these habits.

The report also said that the licence fee model should be reviewed which would allow the regulator to respond to new areas where there may be potential harm to consumers

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