Under pressure to be more proactive in its approach to regulation of the UK gambling sector, the UK Gambling Commission (UKGC) has announced yet another consultation initiative, this time in the area of statistics and problem gambling research.
The UKGC announcement states that they are looking for feedback and guidance from all stakeholders, on how they can tackle the reform of the methods that are currently used to gather information on gambling participation, with a particular focus on the problem gambling prevalence statistics that play a key role in arguments about the social impact of the sector.
In announcing their consultation seeking feedback on the new approach, the UKGC said in a statement that it was aiming to establish what it describes as a new ‘standard on research into gambling behaviours’ to improve its ability to regulate the sector.
As a key part of its current regulatory function, the UKGC has the responsibility of providing the UK government with the most accurate information and analysis on gambling participation within the UK, as well as an assessment on the key factors that can have an influence on problem gambling.
Thus far, the UKGC has set about collecting its data in this area through surveys of UK adults. According to the Commission, the research that it conducts into gambling is produced in full accordance with the original standards that are set out by the Government Statistical Service in their ‘Code of Practice for Statistics‘ used by regulators and government bodies. But in a statement announcing the consultation, the UKGC said that they were keen to improve their approach in this area, as part of their ongoing commitment to overseeing the modern gambling sector:
“The Commission is ambitious about improving the quality, robustness and timeliness of our statistics. We therefore set out a commitment in our 2020/21 Business Plan to ‘review our approach to measuring participation and prevalence and publish conclusions.”
That commitment was partly influenced by specific criticisms of the UKGC in this area from politicians. Among these, one of the most notable came from the House of Lords Select Committee that is headed by Lord Grade of Yarmouth. The Committee, which conducted a review of the social and economic harms associated with the gambling industry last year, claimed that efforts to tackle problem gambling had been undermined by the absence of reliable statistics.
The UKGC is also under wider pressure from politicians for the way that it currently regulates the UK gambling sector, with some voices calling for the body to be scrapped. The UK government has also recently announced a review of the 2005 Gambling Act, which could encompass significant reforms in the structure of industry regulation.