Report: Gambling watchdog is failing to protect people from becoming hooked on betting

Britain’s gambling watchdog is failing to protect gamers from falling into addiction, the government spending watchdog warns today.

In a damning report, the National Audit Office (NAO) said the Gambling Commission is not big enough to tame the £11billion industry in the UK.

The ‘small regulator’ only has a £19million budget to tackle a ‘dynamic’ and rapidly changing sector, it said.

In the wake of the report, the Church of England branded the regulator ‘clunky, dated and chronically short of money’. 

The NAO found the commission was failing to keep up with the pace of technological change – as it struggles to recruit skilled staff to deal with increasingly complex cases involving addictive online apps and sites.

The Commission still does not fully understand how mobile gambling causes addiction, added the NAO.

In a damning report, the National Audit Office (NAO) said the Gambling Commission is not big enough to tame the £11billion industry in the UK (stock image)

It said the regulator understood it had a clear aim to make gambling safer, but was unable to explain in detail exactly what it is doing to achieve that. It has, for example, never set any targets to bring down the number of UK addicts from 340,000.

The Commission’s sluggish approach to protecting consumers from predatory practices has meant, in some cases, it has taken many years to implement change.

For example, it told the Government that rules on fixed odds betting terminals needed to be tightened in 2013 – but the law was not changed until 2018. 

The report said: ‘The Gambling Commission is a small regulator in a challenging and dynamic industry. The Commission is unlikely to be fully effective in addressing risks and harms to consumers within current arrangements.’ 

The industry has grown by £4billion in real terms in the past decade, but the Commission, an industry-funded quango, can only ask for more money every four years.

But despite the shortfall, it has never laid out what resources it needs to carry out its work, the report said. In recent years, the Commission has fined more operators, handing out nine penalties totalling £19.6million in 2018-19 – but the report said it was unclear whether these fines are an effective deterrent.

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