We have recently responded to the Gambling Commission's (GC) consultation on proposed changes to Licensing, Compliance, and Enforcement. Please see our response here.
We are concerned that a number of the proposed changes could present significant challenges to new applicants and existing licensees and risk causing procedural unfairness and disproportionate regulatory outcomes. In summary, this Firm makes 4 key points in response to the consultation:
- Dual regulation products - the GC proposes to enshrine in its Policy that it may refuse an application for products if the GC considers it to contain elements that should be regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (the FCA) and/or if their name, branding or game rules contain language associated with financial products. In our view, this is misguided.
- Special measures – the proposals anticipate the formalisation of the piloted "special measures". We are concerned that the proposals indicate that divestment may be required (our view being that divestment should never be a requirement of a process that does not provide adequate time for the allegations to be fully considered and responded to) and that even if licensees implement the agreed step plan in full, the Commission may still review the licence.
- Flexibility of approach - the GC proposes to amend the Policy to indicate that it may take a "flexible approach" to the review procedure, in particular to permit it to investigate further, and to issue further preliminary findings, after a licensee has made representations in response to a previous set of preliminary findings. We understand the issue the GC seeks to address, but the suggestion that its Policy should expressly contemplate it taking a "flexible" and therefore unpredictable, procedural approach is unsatisfactory.
- Regulatory settlement - the GC proposes to amend the Policy to state that it will not normally accept offers of regulatory settlement after the licensee has made representations in response to the GC's preliminary findings. The suggestion that a regulatory settlement would be unavailable after the point at which the licensee is first able to respond to the GC's preliminary findings seems to us unreasonable and procedurally flawed.
If you are interested in discussing any aspect of the consultation and/or our response to it, please get in touch with your usual contact within the Betting & Gaming team or any of the lawyers whose bios appear in the response.