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Due diligence carried out on Fame Ventures

Request

I am writing to request a copy of the due diligence carried out by the Gambling Commission on Fame Ventures before granting a betting licence to that organisation.

Response

Dear Sir

Thank you for your request which has been processed under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (FOIA).

In your email you have requested a copy of the due diligence carried out by the Gambling Commission on Fame Ventures before granting a betting licence to that organisation.

Gambling operators are required to hold a licence from the Commission in order to offer facilities for gambling to customers located in Great Britain. The Commission goes through a licence application process as part of this and makes an assessment of suitability against criteria set out in the Act. Part 5 of the Gambling Act 2005 details the Commission’s statutory functions in relation to the licensing requirements.

When we receive licence applications an assessment is made on whether a business will uphold the licensing objectives and also the suitability of the applicant to carry out the activities that the licence allows. As part of this assessment the Commission will request the following evidence to support the application and the individuals who are relevant to the application, such as:

  • the identity of the individuals
  • financial and other circumstances including resources available to carry out licensed activities
  • integrity – honesty and trustworthiness
  • competence – experience, expertise, qualifications and history
  • criminality – criminal record.

Details with regards to how we process a licence application can be found at the following link:

https://www.gamblingcommission.gov.uk/licensees-and-businesses/licences-and-fees

These checks are carried out to ensure that we meet our obligations under the Act and our Statement of Principles:

https://www.gamblingcommission.gov.uk/policy/statement-of-principles-for-licensing-and-regulation

Once licensed, gambling operators are subject to ongoing compliance requirements and are subject to regulatory action should they fail to meet their licence requirements.

Information collated as part of this process is used to assess whether a person or entity is fit to hold a licence.

I can confirm that the Commission does hold information falling within the scope of your request. However, the Commission is of the view that this information is exempt under the FOIA. Details of the engaged exemptions and the corresponding public interest arguments can be viewed as follows.

It should be noted that the Information Commissioners Office (ICO) recently upheld a complaint leading to the disclosure of due diligence carried out by the Gambling Commission on Bet Index Limited.

In that specific case the decision notice did confirm that the S31 – Law Enforcement exemption was correctly engaged by the Commission, however, due to the sensitive nature of the collapse of BetIndex and the number of people who have been impacted by its closure, the public interest, although finely balanced, was found to be in favour of disclosure. The information was exempt, but the public interest in disclosure was found to outweigh the application of the exemption in this specific case.

Fame Ventures Limited is a current, active licensee unlike BetIndex. This is a different scenario to the BetIndex request and as such, the public interest in disclosure will be different. Public interest test decisions are request specific and cannot simply be applied to other requests. The public interest test has to be conducted specifically to each individual request.

S31- Law Enforcement

Section 31(1) provides that Information which is not exempt information by virtue of section 30 is exempt information if its disclosure under this Act would, or would be likely to, prejudice –

(g) the exercise by any public authority of its functions for any of the purposes specified in subsection (2)

The relevant purpose referred to subsection (2) are –

(c) the purpose of ascertaining whether circumstances which would justify regulatory action in pursuance of any enactment exist or may arise. (d) the purpose of ascertaining a person’s fitness or competence in relation to the management of bodies corporate or in relation to any profession or other activity which he is, or seeks to become authorised to carry on.

We recognise that there is a legitimate public interest in promoting the accountability and transparency of the Commission and the importance of having sufficient information in the public domain to support consumers with their choice of operator. It is important that the public are assured that the Commission is ensuring that any individuals who are involved in providing gambling facilities to the public have undergone the necessary due diligence checks and will uphold the licencing objectives ensuring that consumers are protected.

There is an expectation of confidence in much of the Commission’s work, particularly with regards information it asks for to not only ascertain if a licence should be granted but also the tools and techniques the Commission utilises as part of this process. It is the impact on this work of the Commission which is more likely to be affected by disclosure.

Releasing this information would undermine our relationship with operators as the information that they provide to us as part of the application process is done so on the understanding that this will not be released into the public domain. If this information was disclosed, it would damage the relationship that we have formed with operators which would result in them being less likely to share information with us in the future which would undermine our regulatory functions and, as a consequence, have a detrimental impact on the wider public.

Establishing trust with operators is key to having open and frank exchanges and this, in turn, will make operators more inclined to provide commercially sensitive information on the basis it is trusted to be kept with appropriate safeguards.

Disclosing the requested information without sufficient rationale would undermine this trust and make operators less likely to cooperate fully in the future. The Commission considers that if it were to be in a situation in the future where it must use its formal powers to compel the provision of information then this information, provided under compulsion, would be of a different and arguably less satisfactory quality than if information was voluntarily supplied.

Having considered the arguments for and against disclosure of the requested information, the Commission’s view is that the public interest is best served through maintaining this exemption. Disclosure would be likely to discourage operators from being open and honest with us and may also frustrate our investigative methods which could lead to a less compliant industry overall.

Section 43 - Commercial Interests

Section 43(2) of the FOIA provides that information is exempt information if: its disclosure under the FOIA would, or would be likely to, prejudice the commercial interests of any person (including the public authority holding it).

Having acknowledged that some of the information within the scope of your request is exempt from disclosure; section 43 FOIA requires that we consider a public interest test to identify whether there is a wider public interest in fulfilling this request opposed to maintaining the exemption.

It is recognised that there is a legitimate public interest in promoting the transparency of the Commission and in making information available to the public.

However, licensed operators, such as Fame Ventures, have a reasonable expectation that documents at this level of detail would not be published on an individual basis, particularly whilst they are trading.

Detail of individual companies does not contribute to the understanding of overall performance of the industry as a whole. there is an extensive range of aggregated or anonymised data is already available to the public to give a necessary level of understanding of the gambling industry.

Releasing this information would be likely to provide competitors a commercial advantage as they would be able to see the position of competing operators.

Weighing the balance Whilst the Commission aims to be open and transparent, there is a need to preserve the confidentiality of information submitted on that basis and to be mindful of the commercial sensitivities of information that is held. Having weighed these issues, the Commission is of the view that the public interest is best served through maintaining this exemption. There is very little that providing this information would do in terms of the public interest whilst disclosure would be likely to impact on the commercial interests of the Licensees.

Section 40 – Personal Information

Information that we hold that relates to identifiable individuals constitutes personal data.

The Data Protection Act 2018 requires personal data to be processed lawfully, fairly and in a transparent manner in relation to the data subject. It is the view of the Commission that disclosing the personal information within the attached documents and the documents that have been exempt in their entirety would constitute the disclosure of personal data and would contravene this principle.

This information is therefore exempt under section 40(2) of the Freedom of Information Act 2000.

Review of the decision

If you are unhappy with the service you have received in relation to your Freedom of Information request you are entitled to an internal review of our decision. You should write to FOI Team, Gambling Commission, 4th floor, Victoria Square House, Victoria Square, Birmingham, B2 4BP or by reply to this email.

Please note, internal review requests should be made within 40 working days of the initial response. Requests made outside this timeframe will not be processed.

If you are not content with the outcome of our review, you may then apply directly to the Information Commissioner (ICO) for a decision. Generally, the ICO cannot make a decision unless you have already exhausted the review procedure provided by the Gambling Commission.

The ICO can be contacted at: The Information Commissioner’s Office (opens in a new tab), Wycliffe House, Water Lane, Wilmslow, Cheshire SK9 5AF.

Information Management Team
Gambling Commission
Victoria Square House
Victoria Square
Birmingham B2 4BP

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