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Informal meeting notes for the Advisory Board for Safer Gambling

Request date: 19 January 2024

This version was printed or saved on: 13 June 2024

Online version: https://www.gamblingcommission.gov.uk/about-us/freedomofinformation/informal-meeting-notes-for-the-advisory-board-for-safer-gambling

Request

Please can you release to me the ‘informal meeting notes’ for the Advisory Board for Safer Gambling (‘ABSG’) for the following years: 2020; 2021; 2022; and 2023?

Response

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

In your email you have requested the 'informal meeting notes' for the Advisory Board for Safer Gambling ('ABSG') for the following years: 2020; 2021; 2022; and 2023.

Please see the attached information we are able to provide falling within the scope of your request.

It should be noted that there are no informal meeting notes held for September 2021 and September 2022.

We have redacted from all of the attachments, information relating to identifiable individuals that would constitute 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 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.

Further to this, there are a small number of redactions which have been made by virtue of section 31 (Law Enforcement).

Section 31

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. We must also be careful not to reveal any information that could hinder our ability to conduct investigations or enable those we may investigate to avoid detection.

Section 31(1)(g) exempts information whose disclosure would, or would be likely to, prejudice the exercise by any public authority of its functions for any of the purposes specified in subsection (2).

The Commission considers the subsections below apply and therefore the information is exempt from disclosure:

i. Subsection 31(2)(a) refers to the purpose of ascertaining whether any person has failed to comply with the law

ii. Subsection 31(2)(b) refers to the purpose of ascertaining whether any person is responsible for any conduct which is improper

iii. Subsection 31(2)(c) refers to the purpose of ascertaining whether circumstances which would justify regulatory action in pursuance of any enactment exist or may arise,

iv. Subsection 31(2)(d) refers to 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.

Section 22 of the Gambling Act 2005 sets out that the Gambling Commission is responsible for regulating and promoting licencing objectives as set out in section 1 of the Gambling Act 2005.

The statutory duties laid out in section 1 are:

a) preventing gambling from being a source of crime or disorder, being associated with crime or disorder or being used to support crime,

b) ensuring that gambling is conducted in a fair and open way, and

c) protecting children and other vulnerable persons from being harmed or exploited by gambling.

Through our regulatory activities we aim to protect consumers and the wider public by raising standards within the gambling industry.

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 or enable those we investigate to avoid detection.

The Commission therefore concludes that the disclosure of this information would prejudice the regulatory functions of the Commission.

Public interest test

The factors the Commission has considered when applying the public interest test have been detailed below and 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.

Disclosure of the requested information could provide the public with the information that they need in order for them to make an informed decision with regards to whether they wish to participate in the activities of a particular operator.

In favour of maintaining the exemption

There is an expectation of confidence in much of the Commission’s work. It is the impact on this work of the Commission which is more likely to be affected by disclosure of the information. Should the Commission be required to disclose sensitive and confidential information about the state and nature of its reglatory work or inquiries in a particular investigation it may lead to prejudice that particular investigation, thereby inhibiting our ability to protect consumers.

Disclosure of this information would also undermine the Commission's ability to uphold the licensing objectives (as noted above) 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 or operators 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 has in place to assess operators’ compliance with the Gambling Act 2005. 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.

Looking at all the circumstances of the case and the nature of the request, the Commission considers that the relevant prejudice identified above would be caused to the Commission by disclosure, at this time, and this weighs in the balance when considering the question of public interest. We consider that the public interest is better served by withholding the information relating to our regulatory work ensuring that consumers are protected through our processes rather than releasing information which in our view will not benefit the public.

Finally, there are a small number of redactions which have been made relating to the Commissions use of operator data. This information is exempt by virtue of 22A(1) (Research Information) of the FOIA.

The Commission has previously published information regarding its need for more detailed operator data in our [Evidence gaps and priorities 2023 to 2026] (https://www.gamblingcommission.gov.uk/about-us/guide/evidence-gaps-and-priorities-2023-to-2026) publication and the future importance of access to data was also made clear as part of the Government’s White Paper. (opens in a new tab)

Further information in relation to the project can be viewed here:

[Blog - Making better use of operator data] (https://www.gamblingcommission.gov.uk/blog/post/making-better-use-of-operator-data)

Section 22A(1)

Section 22A(1) (“research information”) provides that Information obtained in the course of, or derived from, a programme of research is exempt information if:

a) the programme is continuing with a view to the publication, by a public authority or any other person, of a report of the research (whether or not including a statement of that information), and

b) disclosure of the information under this Act before the date of publication would, or would be likely to, prejudice -

i. the programme,

ii. the interests of any individual participating in the programme,

iii. the interests of the authority which holds the information, or

iv. the interests of the authority mentioned in paragraph (a) (if it is a different authority from that which holds the information).

Public interest test

This is a qualified exemption; therefore, the Commission must consider whether the public interest in maintaining the exemption is greater than the public interest in disclosing the requested information. These arguments are as follows:

In favour of disclosure

There is a legitimate public interest in promoting the accountability and transparency of public authorities and further to this, there is a public interest in Government Departments providing information they hold, that falls within the scope of an FOI request, as quickly as possible.

In favour of maintaining the exemption

However, this needs to be balanced with the public interest in the Commission ensuring the maximum time/cost effectiveness.

The preparations for this project are still ongoing. These redactions directly relate to the conversations which form the basis on which the project to increase the use of operator data was formed. Premature publication of this information could lead to an incomplete and confusing picture emerging and would be likely to cause prejudice to the final launch of the project. At the Gambling Commission we are a people focussed and evidence-led regulator. That means we recognise that better data, better research and better evidence will lead to better gambling regulation and better outcomes for consumers who gamble, their communities and the gambling sector itself. This is what makes identifying evidence gaps and priorities for further data and research so important.

There is an intention to publish information following the launch of this project, as such, the Commission should be able to complete research before it is subjected to external scrutiny.

Weighing the balance

Whilst we recognise that there is a public interest in promoting the transparency and accountability of public authorities in a timely manner, there is no outstanding public interest in releasing this information whilst the programme is still ongoing.

Given that the Commission will be publishing information derived from this project and the nature of the information in its early stages, our view is that disclosing the information prior to this would prejudice the effectiveness of the research programme.

Having considered the above factors, the Commission is of the view that the balance of the public interest lies in maintaining the exemption.

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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