THE BLOG

Government Bill Ignores Gibraltar Excellence and Puts Consumers at Risk

17/02/2014 17:06 GMT | Updated 19/04/2014 10:59 BST

Gibraltar has been a British territory for more than 300 years, yet government proposals currently going through parliament could deal the Gibraltar economy and British consumers a hammer blow by the end of this year.

The Gambling Licensing Bill, fast approaching its final stages, plans to change online gambling licensing laws and if passed will undermine the excellent protection afforded to UK customers by Gibraltar and its online gambling operators, who currently supply the majority of UK consumer online gambling transactions.

The legislation plans to impose a new licensing regime for remote gambling firms that supply the UK that will leave the UK Gambling Commission trying to licence and regulate far flung operators with little or no connection to the UK or even Europe.

Gibraltar as a territory is championed as the centre of excellence for gambling regulation, yet the government's plans completely ignore the longstanding experience and expertise of Gibraltar's regulatory status and its operators.

Licence approval in Gibraltar is particularly stringent; we have less than 30 licensed operators here despite interest from many hundreds of operators given Gibraltar's world leading status. It is this selective approach that has made sure that the operators on The Rock are among the best in the world in terms of consumer complaints and why, with 20 years' experience in the remote gambling sector, the territory is heralded as one of the safest, best value and most competitive markets in the world.

The UK plans take no account of the need to assess an operator with reference to the jurisdiction in which they are based, the quality of local regulation and the need for mutual agreement on a wide range of other regulatory matters including anti money laundering, data protection, consumer protection, contract enforcement and payments protection. By putting the Gambling Commission in the position that it is licensing and regulating overseas operators in a vacuum in places where it has no proper information gathering, monitoring or enforcement powers, the UK government ignores many crucial regulatory issues that are necessary to protect British consumers from harm.

Combined with the planned UK POC tax measures, the proposals will also damage Gibraltar's economy. Operators on The Rock will be forced to cut costs or relocate in a bid to stay competitive against unlicensed and untaxed operators. The human impact of the Bill is potentially significant. More than ten per cent of Gibraltar's workforce is employed in the gambling sector it and makes up around 20 per cent of its GDP so any Bill which saw this vital part of the economy eroded requires careful consideration.

The GBGA has proposed a practical solution to the UK government through cross-border collaboration and regulatory supervision. Our proposals would ensure that UK's consumers are more stringently protected as well as enabling the industry, government and regulators to deal with cross-border issued in a co-ordinated manner. Our proposals would also allow the imposition of a wide range of British standards on both locally established UK operators and operators based in other suitable jurisdictions. Our proposal is built upon an approach that has already proven successful in financial services regulation within the EU. It makes use of stringent and experienced approved local regulators and so would allow UK regulatory resources to be properly targeted on problem areas, operators and jurisdictions.

Once again we urge the British government to reconsider its plans in light of the effect they would have: they are fundamentally unsuitable to achieve the consumer protection that is said to be motivating the Bill.