Annual Report and Accounts 2020 to 2021
We present our latest Annual Report and Accounts following what has been a hugely testing and difficult year for everyone across the world – caused by the devasting effects of the global Covid-19 pandemic.
The pandemic has had a bearing on all corners of daily life and the economy, whilst also widely impacting on the gambling industry, its people and its customers, whether they be on the high street or online.
We identified in the very early stages of the pandemic the significant impacts on our regulatory approach and took action to devise a new model and ways of working to protect consumers. In May 2020, and whilst recognising the difficulties operators have had to face, this included instructing tighter measures to protect consumers such as banning reverse withdrawals and requesting improved affordability checks with more people being based at home due to lockdown.
The pandemic, which included the closure of land-based operations due to lockdown, has not affected our tough enforcement regime which aside from licence suspensions and revocations, saw over £30 million issued in fines or regulatory settlements in the past 12 months.
Building on the consumer protections we have introduced, and our rule changes which will vastly improve the safety and design of online casino games and clean up the malpractice of so-called VIP schemes, we also launched our new three-year Corporate Strategy in April alongside our annual business plan.
The Strategy, which will take us through to 2024, is based on five refreshed priority areas and will give improvements around:
- protecting children and vulnerable people
- ensuring a fairer market
- keeping crime out of gambling
- optimising returns to good causes from the National Lottery
- improving how we regulate.
Ultimately, it will build on the success of our previous strategy, with the gambling industry now in a different place in terms of technology, innovation and the daily operational changes which will be brought by Covid-19.
The launch of our new Corporate Strategy also comes at a time where we enter the third and final year of the National Strategy to Reduce Gambling Harms. The Strategy has done so much to promote a long-term, health-led approach to dealing with gambling harms and we have seen widespread support from our public health and statutory partners across England, Scotland and Wales.
Now into the last 12 months, the Strategy’s steering and implementation groups will be vital in delivering and driving the priorities through the Strategy’s action map – allowing us to evaluate its success and importantly, the next steps for the years ahead in terms of research, education and treatment.
Turning to the wider external environment, in November we published our first ever National Strategic Assessment which assessed the issues and risks gambling presents to consumers and the public, alongside our priorities to address those risks and where progress has already been made.
Shortly after the launch of that document, December saw the start of the Government’s Review of the 2005 Gambling Act. Given the Review is considering our own powers and resources, as the statutory advisor to the Secretary of State, we are contributing our advice and expertise to the Review which we hope will allow us to build on our work to make gambling safer.
We are keen to see the outcomes that the Review will bring for the industry and consumers, alongside the Fees Review, allowing us to be even more effective in regulating what is a fast-paced, constantly evolving sector.
We also responded last summer to three key reports into gambling regulation, including from MPs and the House of Lords. We are considering the wider points raised and also taking a variety of actions to address the recommendations made within those reports.
The ever-changing industry was also reflected in our decision this year to introduce another advisory panel – this time so we can officially hear the independent voices of those with lived experience of gambling harms. The new Lived Experience Advisory Panel (LEAP) is already helping to inform our decision making as part of a wide range of evidence we must consider and sits closely alongside our work with the Digital Advisory Panel (DAP) and the Advisory Board for Safer Gambling (ABSG). All three chairs from these advisory bodies are now also attending our Board meetings on a regular basis, reflecting the importance of their views and evidence.
Staying on collaboration with our stakeholders, despite the impacts of Covid-19, we worked hard to maintain our stakeholder and partner engagement over the past year. This included a briefing with industry CEOs and a separate session with the chairs of a variety of gambling operators, which gave us the opportunity to discuss key regulation and consumer protection issues. We value those relationships greatly and hope to continue to build on those, continuing to work alongside our sponsored department, DCMS.
We have continued to strongly regulate the National Lottery which has had another successful year despite the challenges of the pandemic – whilst ensuring the operator protects players and maximises returns to good causes, especially after such a tough 12 months. A further £1.83 billion going to good causes through the National Lottery over the past year is another excellent milestone and the financial support given to the arts, sports, heritage and charities was vital.
The competition for the fourth National Lottery licence is now successfully underway and we plan to announce the winner within the current financial year following the fair and open contest we are currently overseeing. This follows a delay to the launch of the competition by three months which was due to the unique circumstances caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.
In closing, we would like to say thank you to everyone across the Commission for their huge amount of hard work, commitment and professionalism over the past year. We would also like to thank former chief executive Neil McArthur, who left earlier this year, for his contribution to the Commission over many years.
We have regulated through difficult and unprecedented circumstances but are in a good position for the year ahead as lockdown restrictions begin to ease for the whole of the country.
Deputy Chief Executive (Joint Acting Chief Executive)
Chief Operating Officer (Joint Acting Chief Executive)
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Overview of the British gambling sector
Last updated: 27 July 2021
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