The Department for Culture, Media and Sport has announced that in one of no doubt many public expenditure saving measures to come, £10 m will be saved by merging the Gambling Commission with the National Lottery Commission. Stephen Groom laments, not, the decision.
Topic: Betting and Gaming
Who: Department for Culture, Media and Sport, Gambling Commission and the National Lottery Commission.
When: March 2010
Law stated as at: 4 May 2010
The Department for Culture, Media & Sport announced under the heading "Budget 2010" that as its departmental contribution to the £11b of savings that were being made across government, a number of steps were being taken to cut costs.
One step claimed to secure savings of £10m at a stroke was "rationalising and restructuring its arm's length bodies."
This was to include merging the Gambling Commission with the National Lottery Commission.
Also to be merged were the UK Film Council and the British Film Institute, whilst those well known bodies the Spoliation Advisory Panel, the Legal Deposit Advisory Panel and the Advisory Committee on Historic Wreck Sites were also to be "rationalised."
Why this matters:
One suspects that few tears will be shed for the passing of the Gambling Commission as we know it.
For many if not most of those involved in advising day to day on compliance with the Gambling Act 2005 when conducting prize promotions, the Gambling Commission's performance to date has to say the least been underwhelming.
GC lowlights have included:
- making a dog's breakfast of the notorious "Win a house" Oldborough Retreat prize competition case (apparently giving misleading advice over the telephone before the competition was launched, then telling the organisers to suspend it, then havering for months over whether to take enforcement action or give it the green light, then publishing further guidance which was not materially clearer on the points in issue);
- in over two and half years failing to bring a single prosecution against a prize promotion operator allegedly conducting gambling, although we accept of course that this may have been because there has been 100% compliance with the new laws from day one;
- publishing guidance on on-line gaming which sheds little or no light on when a prize promotion mechanic in which entrants competed with each other might classify as "playing a game of chance" and thereby constitute illegal gaming if unlicensed;
- in its generally disappointing weekly "E-Bulletin" announcing in April 2010 a victory in what the Commission itself described as an important High Court test case on the definition of "gaming machine," but failing to make any more information about the case readily available; and
- failing to give any helpful guidance on the anomaly by which the Gambling Act 2005 does not apply in Northern Ireland and how UK-wide prize promotion mechanics and entry processes should be calibrated accordingly so as to avoid illegality or complaints of discrimination.
Let us hope that in its new incarnation, assuming of course this merger survives any change in administration post the General Election on 6 May 2010, the Gambling and National Lottery Commission (or whatever new monicker is bestowed on the merged body), will turn over a new leaf so that there is real belief in the marketing community that it takes this modest but important aspect of Gambling Act compliance seriously.