UKGC stresses importance of compliance to overseas operators

CEO of the UK Gambling Commission (UKGC) Neil McArthur has stressed the importance of industry standards for gambling firms that market to British consumers.

McArthur made clear that “compliance with both the letter and the spirit of regulation is not optional” and betting companies based abroad should be placing more emphasis on their operations. 

This follows a study undertaken last year that investigated compliance standards of 123 online casino operators.

He commented: “A great deal has changed in five years, not least the growth in online gambling and the changes we have seen, good and not so good, due to the fast pace of change in technology and the way in which gambling businesses have exploited the potential offered by that.”

Results from the study saw 45 firms told to submit an action plan to raise standards, 14 become the subject of ongoing investigations, seven paid a total of £18m in penalty packages and five operators surrendered their licences; three PMLs were also given up.

Speaking at the ARQ Gaming Compliance Forum in Malta, McArthur highlighted that 24 of the 45 operators who had to submit action plans are based in the Mediterranean country.

According to McArthur, operators based in Malta now account for over 30% of online GGY, or about one-eighth of the whole GB regulated market, from around 10% in 2014.

He continued to stress the importance of understanding your customer and that collaboration between operators and regulators should be encouraged to raise industry standards.

An example of this was given as he described the UKGC’s relationship with the Malta Gaming Authority as “vital” and that they concurred with the organisations opinion.

“We also want to encourage collaboration by operators to raise standards,” added McArthur.

“Earlier this month I set out three opportunities for collaboration and I need to be clear that these issues are not just the Gambling Commission’s concerns either.”

Areas of focus

The first area of focus McArthur “challenged” game designers to produce an “effective Industry Code for Game Design”, which will describe the risks associated with each product and how they can be mitigated.

UKGC said it will move to bring this code into LCCP and Technical Standards to “ensure a level playing field for all.”

The second area of concern revolves around ‘inducements to gamble’ of which McArthur revealed a “major operator” has already offered to lead the development of a code of conduct in this area.

Usage of advertising technology is the final core area explored by McArthur, who spoke of a surge as evidenced in an interim report based on GambleAware research on gambling advertising and its effects on children, young people and vulnerable adults.

“Whilst I am not suggesting that children, young people or vulnerable adults are being actively targeted – the research found very little evidence of ad tech being used to proactively target ads away from them either,” he elaborated.

“We want you to come together and start work on a plan which sets out new standards for how industry will embrace ad-tech for social responsibility purposes – actively targeting away from vulnerable audiences.”

McArthur concluded by rallying those in attendance to “engage with the opportunities to collaborate” and that moving forward the UKGC must see “tangible progress.”

He said: “The Commission is clear that although progress has been made in the regulation of the online market since 2014, far more needs to be done to raise standards.”