UK opens consultation on Gambling Commission merger

The UK government has opened a formal consultation on its proposal to merge the Gambling Commission and the National Lottery Commission to form one gambling regulator.

The proposals, set out in the 2011 Public Bodies Act that passed into law in December, are aimed at cutting the costs of and increasing accountability for public bodies, according to the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, which is inviting comments as to whether “the merger will deliver additional benefits while still maintaining effective regulation.” The consultation ends on 23 October 2012.

The government’s preferred option is to use the powers in the 2011 Act to merge the two bodies by abolishing the National Lottery Commission (NLC) and transferring its powers to the Gambling Commission (GC).

The consultation on proposals to widen the remit of the Gambling Commission, established by the 2005 Gambling Act, follows hard on the heels of the Commons Culture Media and Sport Select Committee branding it “an overly expensive, bureaucratic regulator” that had not gone far enough in efforts to reduce its operating costs.

MPs also recommended in its report in the 2005 Gambling Act that an independent review of the Gambling Commission’s expenditure “be carried out as soon as possible after a new system for remote licensing is in place.”

These government proposals for the regulation of UK online gambling by the Gambling Commission from 2014 also came in for heavy criticism from MPs in the report, particularly over whether the Commission intended to either approve and monitor regulators in other jurisdictions or to take on the job of directly regulating and licensing all individual UK-facing operators and companies itself.

The report also cast doubts over government claims that consumer protection and not the desire to collect taxes was at the centre of the government’s desire overhaul the existing regulatory system for online gambling, saying it had “seen no evidence that the existing White Listed jurisdictions posed a greater threat of problem gambling than UK or EU-based operators”.

The UK is now facing potential legal action from Gibraltar-licensed online gambling businesses over the accompanying point-of-consumption (POC) tax for online gambling it intends to introduce next year, with William Hill’s lawyers arguing the tax breaches EU law by attempting to restrict the free movement of goods and services for tax purposes.

Casino Choice journalist

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