The bodies overseeing gambling are failing to protect people who are vulnerable to gambling harms, says a report from the House of Commons Public Accounts Committee. The Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS) and the Gambling Commission – which it oversees – have an ‘unacceptably weak understanding’ of the impact of gambling harms and lack measurable targets to reduce them, says the document, which follows a report from a separate parliamentary group calling for a complete overhaul of gambling regulation (read about that here).
The public accounts committee found the pace of change to ensure effective regulation to be ‘slow’ and the penalties imposed on companies that do too little to address problem gambling ‘weak’. ‘Where gambling operators fail to act responsibly, consumers do not have the same rights to redress as in other sectors’ it says. As gambling increasingly moves online DCMS and the Gambling Commission have failed to adequately protect consumers, even when problems such as increased risk of gambling harm during the COVID-19 lockdown have been identified.
The committee is calling for a published league table of gambling operators’ behaviour towards customers, with ‘naming and shaming’ of poor performers and it also wants to see DCMS embark on a review of the Gambling Act within the next three months.
‘What has emerged in evidence is a picture of a torpid, toothless regulator that doesn’t seem terribly interested in either the harms it exists to reduce or the means it might use to achieve that,’ said committee chair Meg Hillier. ‘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. The issue of gambling harm is not high enough up the government’s agenda.’
The review of the Gambling Act was ‘long overdue’, she added, and an opportunity to see a ‘step change’ in the treatment of problem gambling. ‘The department must not keep dragging its feet – we need to see urgent moves on the badly needed overhaul of the system. Regulatory failure this comprehensive needs a quick pincer movement to expose the miscreants and strengthen those they harm.’
Gambling regulation: problem gambling and protecting vulnerable people at www.parliament.uk. Read it here