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Gambling Commission to require quarterly regulatory returns

| By Nick Brown
Great Britain's Gambling Commission is now set to require all licensed operators to submit regulatory returns every three months (once per quarter). Previously operators were required to submit returns annually (once per year).
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The Gambling Commission uses regulatory returns to ensure that licensees are within the correct fee category. Returns are also used to obtain core information about the industry, as well as for publishing industry statistics.

The decision follows its Autumn 2023 Consultation on proposed changes to Licence Conditions and Codes of Practice (LCCO). The general and regulatory returns Code Provision 15.3.1 will now be amended to require submissions by licensees every three months.

In total, the GC received 45 individual responses to the consultation from industry stakeholders. From these, 49% of respondents stated that they agreed, or strongly agreed with the proposal. “Around one third” disagreed with the proposal – with an additional 15.5% neither agreeing or disagreeing with the proposal.

In favour of the Gambling Commission’s proposal

Of those surveyed, 49% agreed with the Gambling Commission’s proposal (from a total of 45 respondents). The responses came from a mix of those representing gambling businesses. It also included professional bodies, charities and individuals who had worked within the industry.

The respondents in favour believe that quarterly returns will enable more clear and timely insights on gambling harms. It is also believed that more regular reporting will ensure that data received will be more up to date. As a result, it will likely help with better evaluation of public health interventions.

Respondents also believed that it would enable greater efficiencies among licensees who have multiple licence types. This is because it will align remote and non-remote submission dates required by the Gambling Commission.

It is also hoped that regular reporting will balance out the increased frequency of returns. It will also help to reduce the complexity of submissions, through the removal of numerous data fields.

In addition, for some respondents there was little perceived extra cost from responding on a quarterly basis. It was also noted that several larger operators already submit quarterly returns so will not be negatively affected.

The argument against the proposal

Around one third of respondents (around 36%, 16 respondents) either disagreed or strongly disagreed with the Gambling Commission’s proposal.

These respondents considered that the proposal would increase the administrative burden. Some respondents who manage lotteries also highlighted that managing this extra burden would take financial resources away from charitable causes. It was also estimated that the cost of completing three additional returns would rise from £500 to £1,500 per year.

It was also noted that the proposal could highlight a disparity between the Gambling Commission’s intention to “introduce a risk-informed approach” in how they interact with operators.

Many of these also believed that the proposal for quarterly returns would not provide any improved insight compared to annual returns. This is because a longer time period will better capture the rate of change. Without support, the proposals could also raise a risk of further penalties over missed deadlines.

It was also proposed that a more proportionate and risk-based approach should be applied to quarterly returns. For example, higher-risk operators could be required to report to the Gambling Commission quarterly. On the other hand, those considered to be lower risk (such as society lotteries) could report annually.

The Gambling Commission’s view

In commenting on its decision, the Gambling Commission believes that a move to quarterly returns will have a material impact on its ability to budget correctly. It also believes that it will provide an improved ability to understand income levels on a more regular basis and forecast accurately.

The Gambling Commission also highlighted that it is looking to do more to gain a deeper and more accurate understanding of the gambling sector. This, it says, is in line with its aspirations and the intentions of the government’s white paper.

“Given the fast-moving nature of the industry we regulate, quarterly returns will support our aim to be a risk-based, evidence-led and outcomes-focused regulator. By aligning reporting periods across the industry, the quality of our data will improve as we will no longer need to apportion data from each operator to the financial year,” it said in its announcement.

The Gambling Commission also conceded that “some licensees are concerned about the potential extra administrative burden and costs associated with the proposal”. This is particularly the case for lotteries, where the potential extra burden of cost will risk reduced funds being available for charitable activities.

The period mandated for the submission of regulatory returns will also be 28 days, despite proposals from licensees for the window to be 42 days. “We recognise that some licensees preferred a 42-day window for submissions, but have decided that 28 days for the collation and submission of quarterly data is sufficient.”

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