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Welcome to our Gambling Newsletter

Andy Woods launches the Woods Whur Gambling Newsletter with a reminder to all about the challenging times faced by the industry.

I would be surprised if anyone would disagree with my view that the last twelve months may well have signalled the start of a new era for the gambling industry, in particular in terms of compliance and regulation. We have seen a public statement issued in September 2015 relating to failures in the areas of anti-money laundering and social responsibility by a major operator, a further public statement in December 2015 relating to failures in anti-money laundering by another major operator and in February 2016 a public statement relating to a major betting office operator and its failures in anti-money laundering controls. These public statements relate to three major, well-respected operators and are the result of detailed investigations by the Gambling Commission. There will of course have been other investigations, some of which may still be ongoing and some of which may have resulted in the Gambling Commission taking other forms of action, but all of this represents a significant step-up by the Gambling Commission in their investigatory role.

We have also seen the decision in the Greene King case involving the Gambling Commission, in which Judge Levenson set out that in his view the Commission has “an integral role as the national body with oversight over gambling policy and regulation…. It acts as a gatekeeper by issuing operating and personal licences, it provides guidance to Local Authorities and advice to government and its first duty is to have regard to the Licensing Objectives”. Judge Levenson continued: “The Commission has the function of setting policy at a national level and where innovative applications are made. It cannot be unlawful for the national regulator to express a view as to the wider issues of principle.”

Gambling Premises have to have in place individual Risk Assessments from next month and there have been other recent changes to the Licence Conditions and Codes of Practice binding the industry.

The last twelve months have seen more action in terms of regulatory investigations than any year since the Gambling Act became effective on the 1 September 2007, together with the decision in a leading Upper Tribunal case. There has previously been criticism from many quarters aimed at the Gambling Commission for its failure to investigate and take action: that criticism no longer applies. Every single operator in the UK in 2016 now has to closely look at its procedures and policies and assess whether there is full compliance with the Special and Ordinary Codes of Practice, Gambling Commission guidance and anti-money laundering and other regulations. It is no longer simply enough for operators to have policies in place which purport to deal with all of the aforementioned matters. The policies must be reviewed and updated regularly and staff need to be made aware of these policies through regular, documented, training sessions. UK land-based gambling in 2016 in terms of compliance and regulation is significantly different from the position in 2007, and this is a particularly challenging time for operators.

It is for the above reasons that Paddy, Anna and myself decided to launch a specific Gambling Newsletter which will be aimed at the trade and which will come out every month. We are also holding a Seminar at the Hippodrome Casino on the 6th June 2016, at which all are welcome. We hope that the seminar will give practical advice and assistance to operators, will report on recent cases and will give an up-to-date report on gambling in the UK in June 2016. There is no charge for attending the seminar and we hope that as many people as possible attend so that we can all benefit. If you would like to attend the seminar please email so that we can reserve you a space, and please feel free to invite other colleagues or contacts who may not receive this newsletter.