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UKGC 2020 casework highlights consumer trust concerns

The UK Gambling Commission (UKGC) has published its ‘2020/2021 Annual Report & Accounts’ (period ending 31 March), outlining its performance and duties governing the UK gambling sector.

Mirroring all government departments, the UKGC cited tough adjustments in governing UK gambling under global COVID-19 pandemic circumstances.

As a result, from May 2020 onwards the Commission imposed a tougher compliance regime on licensed online gambling operators – requiring more stringent customer affordability, source-of-fund and ID verification checks combined with an increase in one-on-one customer care interventions.

The Commission cited greater confidence in its policy outcomes, in which the regulator’s work had been supported by the oversight of the newly established Lived Experience Advisory Panel (LEAP).

2020/2021 rule changes focused on protecting consumers from engaging in higher gambling risks, forcing operators to improve their online safety provisions, reduce game design risks and to clean-up their VIP schemes.

Despite facing pandemic challenges, the UKGC underscored its continued ‘tough enforcement approach that saw it issue over ‘£30 million in fines and regulatory settlements’ during last year.

The UKGC now operates under its new ‘Corporate Strategy’, a three-year plan which will refresh the priority areas of protecting vulnerable consumers from gambling risks, improving National Lottery returns for good causes, and keeping crime out of gambling.

Further objectives will see the Corporate Strategy focus on improving how the Commission ensures a fairer gambling marketplace for consumers and how to adopt comprehensive affordability checks protecting the public from incurring greater risks.

Providing a statistical breakdown of the participation and performance of the UK gambling sector, the UKGC noted a slight 0.6% decline in total gross-gambling-yield (GGY) to £14.2 billion.

The pandemic year registered approximately 22.1 million gambling consumers, down 2.6 million on 2019 results. However, the Commission outlined the heightened uptake of online gambling – which registered a 1.3 million increase in new consumers to 12.1 million – underlining the UKGC’s importance for extra vigilance.

Increased online participation, with a strong take-up of mobile gambling products, saw online gambling GGY (excluding lotteries), register record results of £5.6 billion (+8%).

Of heightened concern, the UKGC highlighted market feedback in which 29% of consumers believed that ‘gambling was conducted in a fair manner’ – a sign that the sector’s consumer engagement had become of vital importance.

2020/2021 saw a 1% increase in gamblers that had chosen to self-exclude as reports revealed that approximately 245,000 adults in England were identified as problem gamblers – with 1.2 million English adults indexing as low-risk profiles.

Year-end accounts saw the UKGC’s income decline by 5% from £20 million to £18.8 million, attributed to pandemic factors, which had forced gambling venues and betting shops to close for large parts of the year.

The Commission registered increased expenditures across its operations, in light of employee costs growing to £16 million (2020/2021: 14.3m) and National Lottery regulatory costs increasing to £5.5 million – of which £3.9 million was attributed to the management of 4th National Lottery competition.

Closing its year-end accounts, the UKGC declared an operating loss of £19.3 million – a figure which excludes £20 million in direct grants funded by the National Lottery.

As it stands, the UKGC employs 340 professionals overseeing the regulatory development of the gambling sector and 20 dedicated staff members working on the Fourth National Lottery competition.

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