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Open letter to The Times

19 February 2016


I refer to your gambling-related coverage (Wednesday 17 February). I wish to clarify three points contained within the various articles.

Andrew Ellson’s article Gambling charity faces inquiry into its industry links, infers that the Gambling Commission believes it has a duty to ensure industry growth. Let me be absolutely clear: we do not have a statutory duty to ensure growth in the gambling sector. Parliament has given us a duty to aim to permit gambling as long as it is reasonably consistent with the licensing objectives to keep gambling crime free, fair and open, and to protect children and vulnerable people.

This leads onto my second point. Your editorial states that the ‘industry’s starting point in the debate on problem gambling is that the problem lies with the gambler, not the machine’. Whether or not that reflects industry views, it is not consistent with the current regulatory regime. That regime combines controls on products and the environments in which they can be played with requirements for operators to protect vulnerable customers. We have recently taken action through the courts to defend this position in relation to machines being made available within public houses.

I also wish to point out an error in Andrew Ellson’s article Violence, debt and devastation brought by the spin of a wheel. The article claims that a senior figure at the Gambling Commission said that players vandalised one in five fixed odds betting terminals (FOBTs). This is not the case. We do not collect data on the numbers of gaming machines that are subject to criminal damage. We do, however, require operators to record data on the incidents in which police are called to premises. This may include occasions on which machines have been damaged, but will not be limited to this.

Social responsibility and consumer protection are top priorities for the Gambling Commission. While your coverage highlights important issues around the harm that gambling can cause, it focuses on one product in one environment. In practice, all gambling sectors need to take steps to prevent harm.

Sarah Harrison Chief Executive

Note to editors

  1. More information about how we regulate the gambling industry.
  2. Useful statistics on the gambling industry.
  3. More information on prevention of money-laundering.

For all media enquiries, please contact the Gambling Commission press office.

Last updated: 1 February 2021

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