Monday, June 17, 2024

Rhodes highlights Gambling Commission’s “high-impact interventions” against unlicensed gaming

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The British regulator issued 98 cease-and-desist and disruption notices in January.

UK.- Gambling Commission CEO Andrew Rhodes has highlighted the British regulator’s work to tackle illegal online gambling. Speaking at the Westminster Media Forum, he said the commission’s approach was to “identify and undertake high impact interventions, to disrupt unlicensed operators targeting consumers in Great Britain”.

He said that the Gambling Commission had increased enforcement activity by over 500 per cent since 2022 and had more than trebled the number of successful positive illegal website disruption outcomes, from 25 in 2021/22 to 79 in 2022/23.

He said the regulator had been engaging with other bodies and regulators, such as the National Crime Agency (NCA), Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit (PIPCU) and His Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC), to deliver a combined approach. He gave the example of work with HMRC to tackle illegal Facebook lotteries, leading to £600,000 in penalties paid to HMRC.

He said: “Our focus is predominately on delivering risk-based, high-impact, upstream disruption outcomes. These are designed to restrict supply and access to illegal sites at scale. We use intelligence and software programmes to identify those websites with the largest Great Britain footprint or profile and focus on those which pose the highest risk, especially those websites and affiliates which target vulnerable consumers such as Gamstop self-excluded players.”

Disruption of unlicensed gaming operators

Rhodes highlighted cease-and-desist notices as a key action to disrupt unlicensed operators as well as intelligence-led disruption efforts involving work with website hosts and registrars. He said that in January, the Gambling Commission issued 98 cease and desist and disruption notices with 39 successful disruption outcomes. Meanwhile, in the last six months, it referred over 7,000 website URLs to Google resulting in them being removed from search results.

He noted that the regulator was also working with payment providers to withdraw payment services from illegal websites, engaging with banks to raise awareness and identify consumer protection protocols to identify and stop payments to illegal websites. “These are all effective measures we are increasingly looking to use. As are agreeing protocols with search engines to remove illegal websites from search results and working with social media to take down posts which promote illegal gambling,” Rhodes said.

He said the commission was also “identifying UK-facing online advertorial articles and engaging strongly with publishers to get these articles removed. This work includes where necessary, threatening disruption and criminal prosecution and identifying marketing affiliates on social media and getting those removed, too.

“Finally, we are working with software licensees to prevent access to popular products when their games appear to be available on illegal sites, ensuring licensees are doing all they can to prevent access to Great Britain-licensed games via unlicensed websites. In addition, we are increasingly engaging with our licensees if we discover their affiliates have placed adverts on illegal sites. Ensuring licensees terminate business relationships with affiliates who facilitate illegal gambling.”

Earlier this month, Rhodes advised land-based gambling operators to prepare for regulatory changes. Speaking at the Bingo Association’s AGMhe said land-based gambling will be the focus of the regulator’s next consultation phase.

He told delegates: “Later this year and likely this summer, we will be publishing the next round of consultation responses and then moving forward with a third consultation, this time focusing on land-based sectors entirely. But this work is not operating in a vacuum and so the exact timings will to some extent be dependent on other work elsewhere.”

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