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Betfair - Special measures and divestment

Request date: 20 July 2023

This version was printed or saved on: 1 December 2023

Online version: https://www.gamblingcommission.gov.uk/about-us/freedomofinformation/betfair-special-measures-and-divestment


I wish to make a formal request under the Freedom of Information Act 2000.

I am requesting

  1. a copy of the Special Measures report into Betfair.

I also understand Betfair has divested £635,000 also and

  1. would also like to understand where these funds have been divested to.


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

In your email you have requested:

  1. a copy of the Special Measures report into Betfair, and
  2. an undertsanding where the £635,000 divested by Betfair has been divested to.

Answers relating to these are as follows:

  1. Special measures report – Law enforcement (Section 31)

S31(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.

The Commission is a regulatory body with licensing, compliance, and enforcement functions; through our regulatory activity, the Commission aims to protect consumers and the wider public, and to raise standards in the gambling industry.

A key aim of the Commission is to ensure that licensed businesses are compliant in the shortest possible time - this protects consumers fastest and reduces the chances of crime entering businesses. One of the tools we use to ensure operators who need to make key improvements are swiftly compliant is to place them into special measures.

Any information that we can publicly disclose in relation to particular regulatory activities is made available on our website at the appropriate time so as not to disclose any information that could impact on our ability to make enquiries and conduct investigations. Whilst the Commission has formal powers to compel the provision of information from licence holders in certain circumstances, the Commission relies heavily on the provision of information on a voluntary basis across several of the Commission’s functions (including licensing, compliance and enforcement and other aspects of its regulatory remit which include the provision of information by licensees). The voluntary supply of information enables the Commission to obtain information (i) without the cost and delays occasioned by reliance on formal enforcement powers, (ii) in circumstances where no formal powers exist or are limited in scope and (iii) which is pro-actively shared by operators on an open and transparent basis.

The Commission therefore considers disclosure of this information would undermine the willingness of operators to provide information on a voluntary basis and accordingly prejudice the ability of the Commission to discharge its regulatory functions.

Public interest test

Along with assessing whether releasing the information requested would, or is likely to, prejudice its regulatory functions, the Commission also has a duty under FOIA to consider whether, despite that prejudice, it is in the public interest to disclose this information.

The factors the Commission has considered when applying the public interest test have been detailed below. Our view is that the public interest lies in favour of applying the exemption.

In favour of disclosure

The Commission is a public body which is required to regulate the gambling industry in the public interest. There is therefore a public interest in members of the public having confidence the Commission is being open and honest with the information it holds so that it can be held to account. It is important that the public are assured that the Commission is carrying out its functions in ensuring that any individuals/organisations who are involved in providing gambling facilities to the public have undergone the necessary assessments and will uphold the licencing objectives ensuring that consumers are protected.

Disclosure of the requested information could demonstrate to stakeholders and relevant parties how the Commission is assessing licensees and, furthermore, this disclosure may encourage stakeholders to work with us and contribute to our programme of work, increasing confidence in the Commission as a regulator and its ability to uphold the law.

In favour of maintaining the exemption

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.

The Commission has robust and effective processes and procedures in place which are utilised when assessing licensees. These procedures and processes are put in place to minimise the risk of an operator being allowed to continue to offer gambling facilities where they do not meet the required standards. This demonstrates to the public at large that they can have confidence in the Commission’s licence assessment processes.

There is an expectation of confidence in much of the Commission’s work, particularly regarding the techniques used to ascertain if action is required where an operator is concerned. It is the impact on this work of the Commission which is more likely to be affected by disclosure. The amount of specific information the Commission can release relating to our regulatory techniques is limited as this could lead to potentially non-compliant operators altering their behaviour specifically to meet the Commission’s standards purely for assessment purposes. Allowing them to tailor the information they provide to the Commission in a strategic manner. This in turn may impact on the Commission’s function of ascertaining a gambling operator’s fitness to carry out gambling activities.

However, in order to promote transparency, there is information that is publicly available, both on our website but also via the Licence Conditions and Codes of Practice which clearly sets out the required standards with which operator licensees are expected to comply. The Commission has also already publicly confirmed that failings in respect of social responsibility and anti-money laundering concerns, and that as a result, Betfair entered into the special measures process. We also confirmed that, in May 2021 the operator exited this process because we considered they were now implementing effective policies and processes aimed at keeping gambling fair, safe and crime free. Therefore, it is our view that there is sufficient information publicly available about the assessment process and assessment framework to adequately address the public interest in transparency in respect of this matter.

The Commission also publishes other information in relation to how it assesses licensees, including its Statement of principles for licensing and regulation - Gambling Commission. Therefore, to the extent that there is a public interest in transparency around the assessment of a licensee’s suitability to provide gambling facilities, this is already met by the material the Commission proactively publishes.

Disclosure of this information would also undermine the Commission's ability to uphold the licensing objectives which would impact on the trust and confidence of the public in it as a regulator.

Weighing the balance

The Commission acknowledges that there is a public interest in promoting the accountability and transparency of public authorities and the importance of having sufficient information in the public domain to support consumers with their choice of operator, however, disclosure of the information would be damaging to the Commission as a regulatory body which ultimately serves to protect the wider public interest.

It is important that the public are assured that the Commission is carrying out its functions in ensuring that any individuals/organisations who are involved in providing gambling facilities to the public have undergone the necessary assessments and will uphold the licencing objectives ensuring that consumers are protected.

However, there is a strong public interest in preserving the processes that the Commission uses to assess licensees and identify any operators who are not complying with the licensing requirements. The public trust that the Commission has robust processes in place to assess operators so that when they use the services provided by an operator, they are confident that there has been sufficient scrutiny of that operator to ensure that they are protected. If this information were released it would undermine that confidence.

We consider that the public interest is better served by withholding the documentation ensuring that consumers are protected through our processes rather than releasing information about our processes which in our view will not benefit the public as a whole.

  1. Destination of divestment payment

Further to this you have requested information relating to the £635,000 Betfair has divested. Specifically, where these funds have been divested to.

As a result of the special measures process the operator divested £635,123 to charities furthering the National Strategy to Reduce Gambling Harms.

Information relating to the destinations of regulatory settlements to be applied for socially responsible purposes can be viewed on the Gambling Commission website: Destinations of regulatory settlements to be applied for socially responsible purposes (gamblingcommission.gov.uk)

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