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Gambling Commission is up and running: who has been given the first license

Viktoriya Zakrevskaya
International communications consultant, technologist

The gambling market in Ukraine is beginning to launch—the Gambling Commission has issued the first license to Spaceiks LLC. At the same time, the regulator is forming the apparatus, and thematic working groups begin to work.

But skeptical opinions are still riveted on the Commission and on the gambling industry itself: the main complaint of commentators is that the market is launched by people without a reputation in this area.

To show that the work of the regulator should be assessed by the results, and not by the regalia of the managers who headed the state body of the newly created sphere, let us turn to the experience of the UK Gambling Commission (UKGC) and its leadership.

How the UK Gambling Commission works

The UK gambling regulator is considered to be one of the toughest and most effective gambling regulators in the gambling market management, setting industry trends far beyond the country. Along with the formation of licensing conditions and the issuance of licenses, the Commission is engaged in the prevention of offenses in the gambling market, including the protection of players. Companies that somehow violate the rules set by the Commission either pay huge fines or lose their license.

For example, in 2018, Casino36 in Wolverhampton failed to properly verify the identity, source of funds and source of wealth of 33 customers. For this violation, the UKGC imposed a fine on the casino in the amount of 300,000 pounds (more than 11 million UAH).

In the summer of 2016, online casino and bookmaker’s office Betfred got a fine of 800,000 pounds (more than 30 million UAH) for not controlling and not preventing money laundering. These violations were detected quickly due to the continuous monitoring of the licensees.

This creates the basis for self-censorship of operators who are themselves interested in transparent work and identification of controversial sweepstakes, as well as suspicious users’ play.

Membership of the Commission in Britain

The UK Gambling Commission was established in 2007 under the provisions of the 2005 Gambling Act. The membership of the British regulator is more numerous than the Ukrainian one, but the agency itself is much older.

Thus, the Chief Executive at the Commission, Neil MacArthur, took office from the very beginning and does not have a specialized education in the gambling business. He graduated from Leicester Polytechnic Institute with a degree in law and received an MA in criminology from the University of Leicester. His previous work experience includes various aspects of commercial law. However, Neil MacArthur has been successfully running the UK Gambling Commission for 14 years.

Deputy Chief Executive Officer Sarah Gardner, prior to her 12-year career in the Commission, held management positions in companies that focused on business, finance and trading. Mrs. Gardner is a linguist by training.

Alistar Quigley, a Chief Technology Officer of the UK regulator, has been with the Commission, like Neil MacArthur, for over 14 years. Prior to joining the regulator, Quigley was an IT-department Director at National Express, the UK's largest bus operator. Alistair Quigley got a degree in chemistry.

These examples show that none of these UKGC managers had any previous experience in the gambling business. Before the creation of the gambling industry in the UK, all these people were engaged in law, IT, management, communications, logistics, and finance. Does this mean that the Commission was formed incorrectly, by amateurs or corrupt officials?

It is perfectly normal that the regulator formation is going on in parallel with the market creation, and the level of specific skills will increase in the course of working on solving specific problems that are within the competence of the Gambling and Lottery Regulatory Commission. If in Great Britain there are no questions about the Commission membership, then maybe we should take a closer look not at the personnel, but at the work of the department?

Today, one of the most difficult and decisive tasks of the Commission is the issuance of licenses, as well as the creation of an effective mechanism for representing the interests of business, that will improve the gaps of the existing legislation in the interests of the state, business and society.

At the same time, the leadership of the Commission needs to exercise oversight functions and be equidistant from all stakeholders. For this, the Gambling and Lottery Regulatory Commission has created an expert council and established the work of specialized working groups in various areas: the members are already preparing for the framing sessions of 6-7 working groups.

Ukraine is on the verge of creating a new industry. It's time for us to change our attitude towards business and public relations that have been stigmatized for 10 years, and start evaluating the work of professionals for their achievements, and not for articles in the yellow press. The executive power, represented by Gambling and Lottery Regulatory Commission, is implementing the President's initiative to legalize the gambling business—and does it like countries where gambling is an absolutely civilized industry and benefits the state.

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