The Gamblers Consumer Forum have written to the Gambling Commission to express concerns about the 2021 unpublished call for evidence and the complexity of the recent consultation they have undertaken. The letter is reproduced below:
‘We are writing to highlight concerns raised by a number of our supporters regarding the recent consultation process which ended last week and indeed the 2021 call for evidence.
Dealing with the latter first, it is our understanding that the results of the call for evidence which closed in February 2021 (and in particular the results of the ‘survey’ of 12,125 individuals) has still not been published; and that the Gambling Commission has refused a request made under the Freedom of Information Act to release them. Calls for evidence are typically undertaken in order to inform public consultation; but the Commission appears to have taken a deliberate decision to suppress the results so that they cannot be considered as part of the consultation on financial risk assessments (also known as ‘affordability checks’). Given the potentially significant effect (on bookmaking, horseracing and the principle of civil liberty) of the Gambling Commission’s proposals, we urge you to release the results in full without further delay.
We observe that Provision 6 of the Regulators’ Code dictates that regulators have to ensure transparency and indeed the Nolan Principles on Public Life dictate honesty in principle 6. We observe further that the call for evidence was a substantial exercise that involved the expenditure of time and effort by more than 13,000 individuals and organisations. The Commission’s decision to exclude findings from the scope of the consultation is indicative therefore of a profligate approach to market regulation that is at odds with its statutory duties. In the same vein, we note that the regulator commissioned research (by the form 2CV) in 2019 into consumer attitudes to interventions in the event of a binge gambling episode (revealing wide-scale opposition to hard interventions); but this was then excluded from the consultation on interventions for binge gambling episodes.
Moving onto the consultation itself, we have great concerns about the useability of the survey itself which many of our supporters reported to us as being time consuming, difficult to navigate, confusing, leading, tiresome and turgid. Having completed the consultation ourselves, we are minded to agree with these comments as many of the 34 questions in the affordability section were repetitive. According to comments made by the Gambling Commission, the consultation received between 3,000 and 4,000 responses – a significant reduction compared with the 2021 call for evidence. With this in mind, I would be grateful if you could inform us how many responses were received to the consultation and how many responses were aborted during the process. Having studied the Code of Practice issued by the Government on consultations, there have to be questions on whether criterion 5 ‘The burden of consultation’ was adhered to. Going back to our first issue regarding the 2021 consultation, Criterion 6 states clear feedback should be provided to participants following the consultation, to our knowledge, this is yet to happen.
We have also been informed that the call for evidence involved the misrepresentation of certain research findings. I hope you agree that – should this be the case – it would also be a matter of concern.
We do of course remain available to meet to discuss these concerns
I look forward to your response to these very important issues.’