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Sorare

Request date: 19 July 2023

This version was printed or saved on: 13 June 2024

Online version: https://www.gamblingcommission.gov.uk/about-us/freedomofinformation/sorare

Request

  1. An update on the status of the Commission's enquiries into Sorare and a description of any action(s) taken by the Commission following the publishing of the Notice.
  2. Any information associated with the Commission's enquiries into Sorare including any decision(s) made by the Commission as to whether Sorare requires an operating licence under the Gambling Act 2005 (the "Gambling Act").
  3. Any information relating to the assessment of whether the services that Sorare provides do or do not constitute gambling for the purposes of the Gambling Act.

Response

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

In your email you have requested:

  1. An update on the status of the Commission's enquiries into Sorare and a description of any action(s) taken by the Commission following the publishing of the Notice.
  2. Any information associated with the Commission's enquiries into Sorare including any decision(s) made by the Commission as to whether Sorare requires an operating licence under the Gambling Act 2005 (the "Gambling Act").
  3. Any information relating to the assessment of whether the services that Sorare provides do or do not constitute gambling for the purposes of the Gambling Act.

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 release details of our enforcement activity through public statements.

https://www.gamblingcommission.gov.uk/public-register/public-statements/full

The public statements will detail the nature of the failings by the operator and the amount of the fine or settlement. Further to this, the Commission also publishes a list of recent regulatory sanctions we have imposed on licence holders.

https://www.gamblingcommission.gov.uk/public-register/regulatory-actions

When we publish these statements and sanctions, we take care to present as much information as possible to ensure that lessons can be learned by operators. However, 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.

As part of our regulatory activities, we will have dialogue with operators and third parties to establish facts to inform our decision-making process before reaching a final outcome.

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 relating to the outcome of the enquiries 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 enquiries and inquiries in a particular investigation it may lead to prejudice to 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.

Operators are required to provide detailed information and there are statutory mechanisms in place to compel the provision of information, but this is not the most effective way to obtain information. The Commission relies on the voluntary provision of information to perform its functions and open and frank exchanges are integral to the decision-making process.

Disclosing information without sufficient rationale would also undermine this trust and make operators less likely to cooperate with requests in future. This would potentially result in the Commission having to use its more formal statutory powers in the future, leading to more guarded disclosures which would not be in the public interest.

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. Public knowledge of the outcome of enquiries before any investigation is formally concluded is very unlikely to contribute to a proper understanding of the regulatory activities of the Commission.

We consider that the public interest is better served by withholding the information relating to the outcome of the enquiries ensuring that consumers are protected through our processes rather than releasing information which in our view will not benefit the public as this matter has not yet concluded.

  1. Any information, including that contained within copies of internal or Board documents, that explains how the Commission intends to (or currently does) regulate the Web 3 gaming sector.

I can confirm that no recorded information is held falling witihn the scope of this part of you request.

  1. Any Commission documents referring to UNAGI's products including the Ultimate Champions website.

The Gambling Commission do not provide comment on any information held regarding specific action unless it is in the public interest to do so. As such, we are unable to confirm or deny whether we hold any information within the scope of your request. Section 31(3) of the FOIA (Law Enforcement) exemption applies.

Section 31(3) (“Law Enforcement”) provides that the duty to confirm or deny does not arise if, or to the extent that compliance with section 1(1)(a) would or would be likely to, prejudice any of the matters mentioned in subsection (1).

Having acknowledged that the Commission is not able to confirm or deny whether we hold any information within the scope of your request, section 31 of the FOIA requires that we consider a public interest test to identify whether there is a wider public interest in fulfilling this request as opposed to maintaining the exemption.

Arguments in favour of disclosure

We acknowledge that there is a legitimate public interest in promoting the accountability and transparency of the Commission.

Further to this, it is important that there is sufficient information in the public domain, so consumers have an understanding of the regulatory activity that the Commission is taking with specific operators to enable them to make informed decisions regarding their choice of operator.

Arguments in favour of maintaining the exemption

However, confirming or denying information which makes specific individuals or events identifiable could alert individuals involved to the fact that the Commission was/is or alternatively wasn’t/isn’t investigating a particular case and provide them with an opportunity to alter their behaviours or evade detection. This would result in making it more difficult for the Commission to achieve its aims.

Further to this, simply confirming or denying this request for information would impact on the openness of stakeholders when sharing important information with us or other law enforcement agencies. The amount of information released is carefully considered in order to protect the integrity of investigations and individuals or operators from being unfairly associated with unsubstantiated allegations.

Finally, once or if a formal decision has been made the Commission will ordinarily publish all such decisions in full. Fulfilling this request may prejudice the outcome of future investigations by the Commission, or another body, to the detriment of the public interest.

Weighing the balance

Given the points considered, disclosure of the information would be damaging to the Commission as a regulatory body which serves to protect the wider public interest. Ultimately, the Commission believes that the interests of the public are better served through maintaining the exemption, therefore, we are not in a position to confirm or deny whether we hold any information in relation to this part of your request.

Within your request you have also stated that you will use the information provided in response to this request to inform your decision with regards to Sorare.

The FOIA gives individuals the right to request only recorded information held by public authorities, such as the Gambling Commission. It does not provide an avenue for individuals to gain views or opinions of public authorities. We are therefore unable to comment on any personal decisions in relation to this organisation.

We would however point out all operators who are licensed, or in the process of being licensed, by the Commission can be found on our Licensee register, which is regularly updated. This can be found on our website: Full register of gambling businesses - Gambling Commission.

Any consumers who gamble with unlicensed operators are unlikely to receive the protections the Commission requires from its licensees.

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