Gambling operators will be offered the chance to anonymously complain about the UK Gambling Commission after claims they are “scared” of lodging formal complaints because of the fear of “retribution”.
A whistleblower system will be set up by the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for Betting and Gaming, with allegations included in a report later in the year.
The MPs and Lords in the group — which says gambling should be legal and well-regulated, and is distinct from the APPG on gambling harm — said its focus would be on undertaking an investigation into the competence and effectiveness of the Gambling Commission.
In a statement, the group said there was a demand among many in the industry for much deeper structural and cultural changes within the regulator.
They added: “The group feels that with the current Review of the Gambling Act 2005 being undertaken by DCMS, the forthcoming appointment of a new chair and CEO, now is an opportune time to review the effectiveness of the regulator.
“We are very conscious that for many operators and their advisers, they have no real avenue to express their concerns, as the only way to complain about the Gambling Commission is to submit a complaint to the Gambling Commission.
“We are also conscious that many operators are actually scared of complaining about their regulator as they fear retribution either directly or indirectly.”
The Gambling Commission was widely criticised in a number of reports published in 2020 by the Public Accounts Committee, the National Audit Office and House of Lords Select Committee on the Social and Economic Impact of the Gambling Industry.
Most of the issues identified centred around the commission’s alleged failure to protect customers and effectively regulate operators.
However, the parliamentary group said they felt that for much of the industry, the Gambling Commission had “many more faults than those identified by the 2020 reports”.
It added: “The group therefore wishes to provide a platform for the industry and its advisers to provide examples of where the Commission has been found wanting and do so in an anonymous manner.
We are also conscious that many operators are actually scared of complaining about their regulator as they fear retribution either directly or indirectly.
“We will provide the industry and its advisers with the means to submit their complaints to us, identifying who they are so we can ensure such complaints are from valid organisations, and then anonymise these complaints and present them in a report.”
The group said that from anecdotal research, it had decided to categorise the complaints stakeholders have into three types:
- Where they feel the commission has acted ultra vires — or beyond the powers of the regulator.
- Where they feel the commission has acted in breach of the Regulators' Code — rules by which all regulators must abide.
- Where they feel the commission acts in a way that can be considered either incompetent or providing poor customer service or as unworthy of the licensing fee.
Examples of bad practice include the imposition of “excessive and at times undefined regulations without the need for industry consultation,” the group said.
It said the appointment of the interim CEO, Andrew Rhodes, earlier this year came with the express instruction that the organisation needed “rebooting” from the then secretary of state at the Department for Digital, Media, Culture and Sport (DCMS).
The group will present its report to the DCMS Review of the Gambling Act and whichever minister in Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy holds responsibility for the oversight of industry regulators, it said.
It will also invite Rhodes to attend an invited industry audience meeting to respond to the report.
The committee stressed that all complaints would be dealt with and presented anonymously.
The deadline for submissions, which can only be made by operators and their advisors, is October 31, 2021
It added that if the number of submissions proved insufficient to create a report worthy of presentation then it would abandon the project.