The Gambling Commission recently announced the appointment of four new Commissioners with immediate effect. Terry Babbs, Brian Bannister, Jo Hill and Sir Martin Narey were appointed as Commissioners for five years from 30 April 2020. There are now 11 Commissioners, including the Chair, Bill Moyes. Together, they form the Gambling Commission’s Board of Commissioners (the “Board”).
The Gambling Commission describes the Board as follows:
“They provide experience and knowledge from a wide range of sectors and industries. It is responsible for ensuring that we fulfil our statutory objectives. The Board sets the overall strategic direction, including helping to put consumers at the heart of what we do. The Board’s work helps us to ensure the licensing objectives are met.”
Given their strategic importance to the Gambling Commission’s work and their licensing, regulatory and enforcement functions, it is worth taking a closer look at each Commissioner’s background, the Board and Regulatory Panel.
Basic biographies for each Commissioner are available on the Gambling Commission’s website. It is interesting to note the strong focus on consumers, mental health and the vulnerable. This could be coincidental; however, it seems most unlikely. The Cabinet Office public appointment advertisement sought three (not four) candidates, including “a candidate with experience in consumer protection, communications and/or public affairs and regulation.” The additional criteria for Commissioners required experience of at least one of the following:
- expertise in organisational HR strategy and policy, including senior executive remuneration;
- expertise in consumer protection;
- expertise in communications and public affairs;
- experience of working within a legal or regulatory framework; or
- the procurement of major publicly funded projects and the subsequent management of such projects.
The composition of the Board does not seem particularly balanced when the Gambling Commission is responsible for the regulation of commercial gambling in Great Britain. What about requiring candidates, or at least one, to have “lived experience” of gambling or technology? My former employer, the Health & Care Professions Council, has registrant and lay Council members, which would be much fairer. The Financial Conduct Authority’s Board is largely made up of members with financial services backgrounds and the Advertising Standards Authority’s Panel members come from marketing and commercial backgrounds.
Brief overview of each Commissioner’s background:
- Terry Babbs has held executive roles in the private and public sectors, including at Tesco. He is also the Senior Independent Director at the General Dental Council.
- John Baillie is a Chartered Accountant and former Partner of KPMG. He was a member of Reporting Panel of the UK Competition and Markets Authority for nine years.
- Brian Bannister is the Executive Director for Strategic Insight and Influence at the Law Society and previously held roles at PwC, including as UK Director of Public Affairs, responsible for Government, regulator and stakeholder relations.
- Carol Brady MBE has held various roles in trading standards and is now Chair of the Claims Management Regulation Unit for the Ministry of Justice and Managing Director of her own consultancy business. She was awarded an MBE in June 2016 in recognition of her services to consumers and better regulation.
- Stephen Cohen has over 37 years’ experience in asset management and recent experience as Chair of a fintech software business. He also sits on the Board of the Health & Care Professions Council (my former employer) and the JPMorgan Japan Investment Trust plc.
- Jo Hill is currently Executive Director of Strategy and Risk at the Pensions Regulator. She has held various roles at the Financial Conduct Authority and is also a Trustee of the Money and Mental Health Policy Institute.
- Dr Bill Moyes was appointed as Chair in September 2016. He is also Chair of the General Dental Council. He had a long career in the Civil Service and has held leadership roles in five national regulators.
- Sir Martin Narey had a long career in the Civil Service, including as the Director General of the Prison Service and leading the Probation Service. He was Chief Executive of Barnardo’s until 2011, previously sat on the Council of the Advertising Standards Authority and is a Government adviser on children’s social care. He was knighted in 2013 in recognition of his services to vulnerable people.
- Trevor Pearce CBE QPM spent 40 years in local policing and national agencies, including the National Crime Squad, Serious Organised Crime Agency and National Crime Agency.
- Jonathan Scott retired as Senior Partner and Chair of the law firm, Herbert Smith Freehills, and continues as a Consultant to the firm. He is also a Non-Executive Director of the Competitions Markets Authority.
- Catharine Seddon spent 20 years as a film maker and has held judicial roles, including as a Magistrate. She holds various roles, including on the Legal Services Board and at the Pensions Regulator, and sits on Mental Health Tribunals.
Board of Commissioners
Commissioners are appointed by the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport. As set out in paragraph 2.7 of the Gambling Commission’s Corporate Governance Framework, they have individual responsibilities as members of a public body, including to act in good faith and in the best interests of the Gambling Commission.
Paragraph 2.6 provides:
“The Board of Commissioners has corporate responsibility for ensuring that the Commission fulfils the aim and objectives set out in legislation and complies with any statutory or administrative requirements for the use of public funds. Other important responsibilities of Commissioners are:
- ensuring that high standards of corporate governance are observed at all times
- establishing the overall strategic direction of the Commission within the relevant statute and the policy and resources framework agreed with the responsible Minister
- ensuring that the Commission operates within the limits of its statutory authority and any delegated authority agreed with DCMS, and in accordance with any other conditions relating to the use of public funds
- ensuring that, in reaching decisions, the Commission takes into account any guidance issued by DCMS
- appointing, with the Secretary of State’s approval, a Chief Executive (including the terms and conditions of employment)
- ensuring that a distinction is made and set down in writing between strategic planning and management, which are the responsibility of the Commission, and day-to-day management issues which have been delegated to the Chief Executive.”
Board meetings normally take place in Birmingham at the Gambling Commission, but may also take place elsewhere, if appropriate, and by telephone or video conference. There are six Board meetings scheduled in 2020. Board papers are supposedly available on the Gambling Commission’s website, although none appear to be available after June 2017!
Pursuant to its delegated statutory powers (in paragraph 8 of Schedule 4 of the Gambling Act 2005), the Gambling Commission has a Committee of Commissioners, on which any Commissioner may sit, which is known as the Regulatory Panel.
The Regulatory Panel must be made up of at least two Commissioners, although normally it will comprise three Commissioners.
The Chair of the Gambling Commission (currently, Bill Moyes) will, if present, preside at all meetings of the Regulatory Panel. Otherwise, he may designate a Commissioner to chair.
Examples of cases considered by the Regulatory Panel:
- Determination of operating or personal licence applications. This could be following a referral from the Gambling Commission or, in cases where a “minded to refuse” letter or “minded to grant with condition” letter has been sent, the applicant wishes for the case to be heard before a Regulatory Panel.
- Determination of a change of corporate control application where the licensee has received a “minded to revoke” letter and wishes for the application to be determined by the Regulatory Panel.
- Reviewing the Gambling Commission’s decision to suspend a licence, either at the outset or during a review.
- Determination of an operating licence review following a “minded to” letter setting out the Gambling Commission’s preliminary conclusions. Personal licence reviews take place before a Director of the Gambling Commission.
Additionally, the Regulatory Panel may also determine a case in replacement of other persons with delegated powers, such as the Chief Executive or a Director. Full details of the Gambling Commission’s delegation of licensing and regulatory decisions can be read here.
Much of the Gambling Commission’s compliance and enforcement work is not considered by the Regulatory Panel because regulatory settlements are reached between the licensee and Gambling Commission. If regulatory settlements become less attractive – such as increasingly punitive penalty packages – the Commissioners and, their “knowledge and experience” may become much more relevant to gambling businesses and the work that we do.