UK Gambling Commission (UKGC)

Steering the betting sector through the implementation of the Gambling Act review White Paper is understandably the core focus of the UK Gambling Commission (UKGC). This will have significant knock-on effects for the payments sector.

Significant knock-on effects for the payments sector are expected following the UK Gambling Commission’s (UKGC) implementation of the Gambling Act review White Paper.

The Commission’s strategy for 2024-2027 contains four focus areas relating to the White Paper implementation, as well as that of the Fourth National Lottery Licence. These focus areas include use of data and analytics to make gambling regulation more effective and setting evidence-based requirements for licensees.

‘Evidence-based’ is one of the most significant terms here, having been mentioned repeatedly by the Commission, policymakers, betting stakeholders and reform advocates throughout the two-and-a-half year duration of the review.

The term is particularly significant in the context of finance risk checks. These have been billed by the UKGC and CMS – the government department responsible for betting industry oversight – as the solution to the hotly-debated topic of customer affordability.

Finance risk checks will be light touch in the majority of cases, under UKGC and DCMS plans. However, in cases where customers must give more detailed information in order to make a gambling payment, Open Banking will be used, largely due to its data sharing qualities.

This latter topic, data sharing, is also central to the UKGC’s plans for the coming years. The regulator intends to make greater use of data for more efficient and effective gambling regulation. This has been an area of focus for some time, with the Commission having previously stated that betting could learn from other sectors, such as finance.

UKGC Chair, Marcus Boyle, said: “Our new three-year strategy ‘Gambling regulation in a digital age’ sets out how we will deliver the reforms set out in the Government’s gambling white paper, and successfully regulate the National Lottery under a new licensee.

“We are also setting out an ambitious programme to enhance the effectiveness of our regulation. A new data innovation hub will foster the smarter use of data. We will increase the transparency of our work to raise standards in the gambling industry, and we will be creative in disrupting those who seek to operate illegally.

“I want a fair, safe, and crime-free gambling market where consumers and the interests of the wider public are protected. This strategy will improve gambling regulation and move us closer to that vision.”

The Commission’s strategy statement had little mention of fraud or anti-money laundering (AML) activities. However, this is a core operational area for the Commission, and judging by enforcement activities in recent years the betting sector can expect such activity to continue.

By utilising data more effectively the Commission may be able to make more regular and accurate judgements of the AML threats faced by UK betting but also of how well operators are sticking to requirements.

Regardless of its plans for data use, the UKGC has previously made it clear that its tough stance on AML and social responsibility requirements will remain unchanged moving forward.

Several prominent British bookmakers have been hit with sanctions over the past two years, most recently bet365, although penalties against Entain and William broke records in 2022 and 2023 respectively, and many more have faced similar charges.

Overall, the defining commitments of the UKGC’s four strategies are to “ensure that gambling is fairer, safer, and crime-free for the benefit of consumers, the wider public, and licencees’ These objectives have undoubted significance for the payments companies serving operators and bettors.

UKGC CEO, Andrew Rhodes, said: “I am proud of how far the Commission has come in the last few years. We’ve tackled some of the critical issues facing operators and consumers, but the next cycle will involve delivering on some of the key decisions that we and Government have taken.

“Our objective is to be the authoritative voice on evidence and data, to tackle misinformation, delve into the facts, and help bring about improved outcomes for the public. Our Gambling Survey for Great Britain is one example of how we aim to embrace new data and intelligence.

“It is vital we maintain high standards for gambling consumers, working with industry to resolve issues at the earliest opportunity. We will continue to work across borders to tackle common issues like illegal gambling, and to learn and share regulatory best practice.”