MPs Slam UKGC, Government for ‘Failing Problem Gamblers’

  • Scathing report was published by the House of Commons Public Accounts Committee
  • Claims the UKGC and Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sports are failing gamblers
  • Recommends spending more on gambling prevention rather than treating those with a problem
  • MPs want to name and shame errant operators and to revise the Gambling Act of 2005
Gambler disappointed at losing
The House of Commons Public Accounts Committee (PAC) claims that the UKGC and the government are not doing enough to tackle problem gambling. [Image: Shutterstock.com]

Scathing report published by MPs

A scathing report published by the House of Commons Public Accounts Committee (PAC) claims that the UK government and the region’s gambling regulator have failed to adequately protect problem gamblers.

In the report published on June 28, MPs were critical of the UK Gambling Commission (UKGC) and the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS). The report accuses both parties of having an “unacceptably weak understanding” about the impact of gambling harm and the ways in which addiction can be tackled.

Approximately 395,000 people in the UK are currently categorized as problem gamblers, with 1.8 million further individuals deemed to be at risk. In 2019, the UKGC generated £19m ($23.5m) in license fees, which represents under 0.2% of the £11.3bn ($14m) total yield for the sector.

The report says the DCMS does not understand that it would be better to increase the UKGC’s budget to prevent harm rather than spend money to treat problem gamblers. 

Call for change

Meg Hillier MP, chairperson of the committee that published the report, shared her thoughts on the UKGC. She said: “What has emerged in evidence is a picture of a torpid, toothless regulator that doesn’t seem terribly interested in either the harms it exists to reduce or the means it might use to achieve that.”

calls for an urgent review of the Gambling Act of 2005 that is considered outdated in the digital age

One of the demands from the report is that the authorities publish a league table of the various gambling operators, highlighting those that perform poorly regarding their safe gambling standards. There were also calls for an urgent review of the Gambling Act of 2005 that is considered outdated in the digital age. 

The report calls for a timetable for the legislation update to be outlined within three months of the report being published. Responding to this demand, a spokesperson for the DCMS acknowledged that the department is planning to review the Gambling Act to make sure it is fit for the digital age.

Response to the report

The Betting and Gaming Council (BGC) responded to the new report by saying that its members were trying hard to raise their standards. In a statement, the industry group maintained that the sector is already heavily regulated and that it was important not to

drive customers to offshore, black-market, illegal operators that don’t have any of our safeguards.”

Gambling with Lives is an organization created by the family and friends of people who have killed themselves because of their gambling problems. This body welcomed the new report’s findings, saying it “clearly sets out the failure of regulation of gambling operators.”

A couple of MPs who were part of the committee that published the report highlighted that the UKGC is behind the times in reducing gambling harm, and that it lacks any “targets or real action” to reduce the issue.