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GC aims to speed up enforcement activity through policy overhaul

| By Robert Fletcher
Great Britain’s Gambling Commission aims to speed up its regulatory settlement process in an overhaul of its Licensing, Compliance, and Enforcement Policy.
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The regulator has launched a consultation outlining a series of planned changes to its policies related to risk assessments, licensing, carrying out compliance activities, as well as regulatory and criminal enforcement.

Running until 9 February next year, the consultation seeks to gather opinion from gambling operators, trade associations, charities, financial institutions and other stakeholders, as well as the general public, about the new proposals.

In the consultation document, it outlines a number of changes for enforcement activity, admitting that regulatory settlements are only agreed at a late stage in the investigation process. It said these agreements can only be made when the licensee involved in transparent, and readily offers up relevant information. This will see an addition to the Licensing, Compliance, and Enforcement Policy, stating that offers for settlements should be put forward early in the investigation process.

For financial penalties, the regulator has proposed asking the licensee for financial information, to assess the level of fine that is appropriate, which not only takes into account the business’ financial probity, but also that of its owner or parent company. Should a business fail to provide this information, the Commission will infer that it has the available funds.

It also clarifies that licensees will have grounds to challenge interim suspensions at a regulatory panel of commissioners. This would have to be convened as soon as possible, the update adds.

Special measures, which can be applied when a licensee is found to be deficient in a compliance assessment, will be required to submit an urgent action plan to rectify the failings. As part of this process it may be required to divest any financial benefits from the failings.

Should this meet the regulator’s standards, it would not proceed with a review of the business’ licence.

The Commission also said it has been working on its regulatory approach to products relating to stocks, shares, indexes or investments. It believes they should be regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), but added that this is unlikely to happen before the current Gambling Act Review. As such it proposes no longer issuing licences to businesses offering such products.

“Products which are or may also fall to be regulated by other regulators, for example under the Financial Services and Markets Act 2000, create the risk of uncertainty as to where the regulatory responsibility may lie, so risking harm to the second and third licensing objectives,” the Commission explained.

Other proposals include clarifications to licensing criteria, and giving the regulator the power to reject incomplete applications.

The Commission also clarified the changes for which licensees must update the regulator, including changes to ownership or control, the submission of timely regulatory returns, and variation applications if a business is likely to exceed the fee category limit of its licence type.

In addition, it aims to begin carrying out remote compliance assessments if and when necessary.

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