Rhodes: “Overstated” black market risk won’t stop GC from cracking down

| By Marese O'Hagan
GB Gambling Commission interim chief executive Andrew Rhodes has warned operators that the spectre of the black market is “nowhere near” enough of a threat to deter the regulator from taking strong action if needed.
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At GambleAware’s conference on Wednesday (8 December), Rhodes stated that the Commission needs to “do more” in terms of illegal gambling and the black market.

However, he said that this would not prevent the regulator from ensuring a high level of compliance and standards in the industry.

“We are not going to be deflected away from that mission, in some sort of race to the bottom because someone else is worse,” said Rhodes. “That’s the whole point of having a regulated market.”

“I absolutely believe if you introduce the wrong friction, you can drive people into the black market. But we are nowhere near that scale of problem.”

Rhodes also revealed that the Commission had recovered £100m in penalty packages since 2017 and had retracted 10 operator licences, adding that this was not cause for celebration.

“This year so far is already on course to be our busiest year ever in terms of enforcement activity, and that’s something that should concern us,” said Rhodes.

Rhodes added that the Commission had seen an increase in repeated offences, with more fines, rather than regulatory settlements, being issued as a result.

“We are seeing the same companies committing the same offenses for the second and third time, and my concern is that those operators are starting to see fines as a compliance tax, and that’s something that I’m not prepared to tolerate,” he said.

“It must also be incredibly frustrating for those in the industry who are working hard to comply and to raise standards.”

Rhodes also stressed business to customer relations in the gambling industry, revealing how customers are affected when they gamble,

“The gambling industry yields £14.1billion after winnings are paid out, which means the gambling industry takes £450 a second off consumers within the UK,” said Rhodes.

Elsewhere Rhodes referred to the collapse of Football Index earlier this year, criticising the company for not being transparent with, and misleading, customers.

“People have had horrendous experiences in losing money as the company collapsed,” said Rhodes. “But what we found here is we’ve got a company encouraging consumers to believe they were investing and not gambling when there were no assets to support an investment.”

Yesterday the Commission published its Compliance and Enforcement Report for 2020-2021, which revealed issues in anti-money laundering enforcement.

The regulator stated that the shortcomings may be due to valuing profit over regulatory compliance.

“Our casework reveals that operators are either not making suitable resources available or are simply putting commercial objectives ahead of regulatory ones,” read the report. “This is simply unacceptable and will be seen as such by others in the industry who work hard to achieve compliance.”

Rhodes was appointed as the Commission’s interim chief executive in June on an 18 month period.

Gambling Minister Chris Philp also spoke at the GambleAware conference this week, stating that the government will look into putting a single customer view approach and soft affordability cap in place, but that the cap was likely to be set higher than £100.

Philp was appointed to the role of Gambling Minister in September.

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