UKGC criticised over announcement to lay staff off

Viktor Vangelov | Published 31 Aug 2020, 2:43 p.m.

We have written about the UK Gambling Commission and its activities on a number of occasions. The range of activities usually includes introducing restrictive measures aimed at operators, or even decisions regarding a certain operator, or few operators that have breached gambling laws and regulations and have been fined as a result.

Some of the fines that have been handed by the UKGC have been quite extraordinary. Over a year ago, one of the largest UK gambling operators – Ladbrokes Coral have been fined by the UKGC and were required to pay almost £6 million as a result.

A lot of the UKGC initiatives had to do with problem gambling and its control, and there was even a BBC Panorama programme, dedicated to this issue. Then, at the beginning of this year, UKGC announced the ban of credit card gambling.

There are many instances where the UKGC has launched an investigation into an operator and fined them for the way they are handling the situation and treating their customers generally speaking. This time, it is the UKGC that’s under scrutiny for their decision to cut jobs and lay staff off.

The aim is to save £1 million

The goal of the commission is to save an amount of £1 million and the cuts and the lay offs will be an attempt to achieve this. However, there is criticism that the Commission is underfunded and that having fewer employees on board would make their job even more difficult and more challenging.

The Commission has already started asking staff members to voluntarily choose to be made redundant and the next phase – compulsory redundancies.

The concerns regarding the Commission’s effectiveness have been raised and expressed in three reports that have been previously published, one by a public accounts committee, as well as two parliamentary commissions, one in the House of Lords and a committee forms by a group of MPs belonging to all parties.

All of these reports also question the Commission’s ability to function with a budget of mere £19 million and is expected to regulate an industry where the yearly revenue is about £14 billion a year. Representatives of the Commission have themselves acknowledged that the body is underfunded.

Criticism from the inter-party parliamentary committee

The above-mentioned parliamentary committee, i.e. its chairperson – Meg Hillier expressed her opinion on the proposed cuts. She stated that it is up to the Commission to make this decision but expressed her discontent at the way the Commission has been dealing with some of the issues. While there is better understanding of problem gambling and its effects, there is a lot less progress in terms of dealing with the issue and the parliamentary committee doesn’t believe that the current level of progress is sufficient.

There is a consensus in Parliament that the Department for DCMS has to set targets that will be used to measure the efficiency of the UKGC, as well as develop a finance plan that will ensure the Commission’s financial stability.

Representatives of the Commission also went live on behalf of the UKGC stating that the restructuring, as they labelled it, is aimed at making the organisation more agile and more efficient.