What Does the Gambling Commission Do with Fines It Receives

Whenever a company goes against the strict guidelines of the United Kingdom Gambling Commission, you often see them charged with fines. In the past, we’ve seen plenty of services charged in the millions because of something they did that ignored the rules and regulations. With this in mind, it’s fair to ask where all these millions go. Once the company has paid the fine, who gets the money and how is it used?

Repaying Victims

First and foremost, we should note that a significant chunk of these funds goes to any victims of crime. Sadly, we still get criminals in the gambling niche because they know that money is there to be taken. In the worst cases, they steal money from other players, gain access to player accounts, or use another technique to drain an account of winnings. When a victim contacts the UKGC or the case reaches their desks, they will use the proceeds from all fines to reimburse these victims.

When we use the term ‘problem gamblers’, it’s natural to think of criminals stealing money from strangers. However, we’ve seen many cases in the past where the criminal is so desperate that they commit crimes against friends, family members, and other loved ones. So desperate to place another bet, they lose control and lose the trust of those around them.

While some take from friends and family, others get involved in embezzlement of money from a business. Regardless of how these criminals get the money, the flip side is normally at least one victim who has been left empty-handed.

Over the years, betting websites and services have made great strides in identifying all users and recognising the source of all money. That being said, there are still blind spots. When a platform doesn’t understand where the money comes from, this is where the problems begin. As a result, the Gambling Commission steps in and has the power to give fines when companies have accepted deposits without understanding the source of the money. In turn, the money recuperated from these fines is used to pay the victims of robbery, fraud, embezzlement, and other gambling-related crime.

Social Responsibility in the UKGC

Although repaying victims is certainly a priority, the UKGC also has a social responsibility mission and has used funds from fines to propel this forward in recent years. Unfortunately, nobody knows exactly where the money is spent but the UKGC has always been a supporter of the organisations and charities that help problem gamblers. For example, this includes GamStop, Gamblers Anonymous, and Problem Gambling Support.

In the past, betting websites and casinos were guilty of trying to drain all players of their money. Now, there’s definitely more attention towards providing a safe and enjoyable environment for all players. When we first sign up to a betting website, for example, we often need to send official documents as proof of address and identity. This way, problem gamblers can’t just create an account under their partner’s name and continue increasing their debt.

All operators have a responsibility to look after customers while encouraging them to gamble responsibly (as the slogan goes, when the fun stops stop). For instance, operators need to ensure that players aren’t gambling more than they can afford. If the website spots activity that suggests a problem gambler, they need to take action.

In our own betting reviews, we always assess the responsible gambling features of a service. Luckily, most platforms these days offer brilliant responsible gambling features with a dedicated page, links to important organisations, measures like deposit limits and reality checks, and more. When an operator fails in their responsibility, the UKGC can fine and put this money towards helping this area of the industry.

The Growing Gambling Problem – If you include the National Lottery, the Gambling Commission said in 2019 that 47% of people in a participation survey had gambled in the previous four weeks (this is 32% when you remove the lottery). Of all online gamblers, 15% had placed a bet or used a casino in the workplace while over half admitted to having multiple accounts.

If we look at 2018 statistics using the DSM-IV or PGSI, around 0.5% of those over 16 in England have a problem with gambling. With this in mind, it’s perhaps not surprising that betting websites, casinos, and the Gambling Commission are all working together to help those in need. Also, it’s not surprising that operators are now getting fines when they don’t follow the regulations.

Effective Distribution?

Does the Gambling Commission effectively distribute this money? This is something that has been scrutinised of late, and the debate continues to rage on. Thanks to the Freedom of Information Act, we know that, over nearly six years, the UKGC handed down fines of nearly £60 million to operators.

After failings over several years, Betway received one of the biggest fines on record after the UKGC handed a penalty of £11.6 million. Among other failings, the betting website accepted deposits totalling £8 million from a player who had been flagged no less than 20 times. Between 2014 and 2018, this player lost £4 million. Elsewhere, another player with no job was able to lose £700,000 after depositing £1.6 million. As a result of this negligence, Betway were charged heavily.

We mentioned £60 million over nearly six years, and this covered early 2014 to late 2019. What’s more, the majority of these penalties came at the end because the UKGC started to pay closer attention to the activities of betting operators. As soon as an operator was deemed to be failing in their social responsibilities, the UKGC would hand down a penalty. During the period in question, we can break down exactly how the money was spent:

  • £35 million – Social Responsibility
  • £24 million – Repaying Victims
  • £750,000 – Operating Costs

With this last point, the UKGC has certain operating costs including paying employees and leading investigations.

From an outside perspective, it looks great that the Gambling Commission is spending £35 million on social causes and helping the industry to improve the environment for problem gamblers. However, the issue with this statistic is that nobody knows exactly where this money is distributed. Not only do we not know the allocation of funds to different projects, but we also don’t know the effectiveness of these projects. Despite being asked many times, the UKGC always refuses to disclose this information.

If you look at the Gambling Commission website, you’ll see a very official-looking ‘Statement of Principles’. Here, they highlight the importance of continually assessing the efficacy of fund distribution to ensure a positive contribution to social responsibility. This is great, but they don’t have an independent process to actually achieve this. Instead, they say that evaluations don’t need to be submitted and this means that they are never seen.

Of course, we would never suggest that the UKGC is wasting its budget or trying to use this money deceptively. Over the years, the Gambling Commission has completed some essential work for problem gamblers and continues to make the gambling environment a safer one for all. However, with consumers having more understanding and awareness than ever before, we’re sure they will eventually move towards a more transparent model.

The Purpose of the Gambling Commission

To finish, we want to provide some more information regarding the UKGC for those who don’t know exactly what they do in the industry. Originally, the Gambling Commission was set up after the introduction of the new 2005 Gambling Act – this itself was designed to regulate all commercial gambling across Great Britain. As well as betting and casinos, this act and the resulting commission also look after the National Lottery.

One of the most important services provided by the UKGC is licensing; whenever a betting website or casino want to operate and serve the public, they need to obtain a license from the United Kingdom Gambling Commission. Without a license, the service has to be careful about what they offer. Additionally, licenses are provided to arcades, lotteries, bingo, gaming machines, remote gambling, and more.

From here, they provide guidance to all licensees and ensure a healthy environment for all players. When an individual or operator fails in its duty, there’s now a very real possibility of receiving a fine. As noted, the commission really hit businesses hard in the last couple of years and it seems they want to stamp out failures moving into the future.

Despite popular belief, the commission doesn’t deal directly with consumer complaints. Also, they don’t regulate spread betting, offer legal advice, or help with premises licensing. The Gambling Commission also has some core objectives:

  • Prevent crime in the world of gambling
  • Ensure a fair service for all players
  • Protect vulnerable individuals such as children

What does the Gambling Commission do with fines it receives? It helps social responsibility organisations, repays victims of crime, and puts a small amount towards operating costs.

Carl Hughes - Editor

Carl Hughes is a leading expert on sports and casino betting. Carl began his career with a BSc in Sport, Exercise and Health Sciences from the University of Birmingham before working within the industry for some of the bigger names (GVC and Bet365) and has been praised as being "a leading sports betting commentator".