In a sometimes heated appearance before the House of Lords Select Committee, two members of the United Kingdom Gambling Commission (UKGC) defended the regulatory agency’s actions in investigating the ‘social and economic impact of the Gambling Industry’ in the country.
The two-hour hearing put Neil McArthur, the chief executive of the UKGC, and Dr. Bill Moyes, the agency’s chairman, in the hot seat. The two were asked about specific details on how the gambling industry was being run, and how the regulatory agency has been involved in regulating the gambling industry within the country.
Committee leader Lord Garde of Yarmouth began the questioning, asking questions about the 2005 Gambling Act, a bill that was passed during what Lord Garde referred to as the ‘free market’ Blair government. The committee leader wanted to know if the law now sufficiently serves its purpose, especially in light of how the gambling industry has grown within the U.K.
Dr. Moyes agreed that the Gambling Act may be antiquated and has deficiencies, but stated that the legislation still meets its core objectives and that it will “remain broadly relevant in making sure that gambling is safe and fair, vulnerable people are protected and at stopping crime getting a hold on gambling.”
McArthur pointed out that the agency is focused on maintaining consistency in how it operates and regulates the gambling industry. He frequently pointed to “constant touchpoints,” specific markers that he believes are necessary to prevent harm related to the gambling industry, as well as in stopping crime while ensuring that gambling is conducted in a safe and legal manner.
During the appearance, McArthur continually touched on the point of consistency, addressing the need to “balance the consumer choice of an industry in which 24 million people gamble in the U.K., against the fact that gambling harm is a problem for a significant number of people, 340,000 according to our latest statistics with a further 5 million marked as vulnerable.”
The committee focused on questions related to media skepticism of how the UKGC has been governing the industry. They highlighted specific instances of gambling problems and how the committee has been criticized for being much more “reactive rather than pro-active” in their actions.
McArthur recognized the need for proper governance of gambling operations. “The Strategy has been a much tougher approach to compliance and enforcement,” he explained. “This was deliberate at changing the behavior of operators since we had seen too many instances of failures being repeated.”
Many in the House of Lords expressed their skepticism over McArthur’s continual dedication to his “three strands” plan of tougher enforcement, collaboration, and innovation. The two did add that new leadership has helped in changing the corporate culture in these businesses.