U.K. Gambling Commission spends £14.4m

Palace Guards at Buckingham Palace, London
Britain's Gambling Commission released its annual report July 11.

Regulating gambling in the U.K. came with a £14.4 million price tag in the fiscal year ending in March 2007.

The costs for the Gambling Commission's first year of operations in Britain are detailed in its 2006/2007 annual report released this month.

Areas regulated by the commission include gambling in casinos and bingo halls as well as state lotteries and gaming machines. The final tally of expenses rang in at £14.4 million, part of which went to pay the organization's 218 employees.

The commission has spent the past year drafting and consulting on policies that will come into effect Sept. 1 with the new U.K. Gambling Act. The previous legislation hasn't been updated since 1968 and while the commission has been busy regulating the existing act, its workload has increased with the creation of the updated version, recruiting new employees and moving offices from London to Birmingham.

The new Gambling Act has been in the works since 1999, when commission chairman Peter Dean - who retires at the end of the year - urged the government to develop a timeline for reforming the old legislation.

"It is a cause of great satisfaction that the reform has now been carried out and the Gambling Act 2005 placed on the statute book, with the commission at the centre of the new regulatory system," he wrote in the July 11 report.

Dean praised British gambling operators in the report, saying that the businesses enjoy a solid reputation for integrity worldwide. The companies have also taken the bombardment of new proposals for legislation, consultation documents and additional requests in stride, he wrote.

"Coping with this exceptional workload has at times strained the resources and patience of those involved," said Dean, "but the process has been invaluable and will lead to better regulation."

Whether online gambling operators have the same praise for the Gambling Commission is open to speculation. Internet poker rooms and casinos based outside the European Economic Area have will have to apply to the U.K. government to advertise within the country.

The legislation has also irked bar owners who run small-stakes poker leagues in their establishments, as the Gambling Act 2005 requires them to charge no more than £3 a day in membership fees. It also forces poker clubs to obtain a casino license if they wish to offer the card game.

The commission has set out a series of codes and practices to which online operators must comply by Jan. 1 and then apply for a new license.

If operators don't meet the required standards, the Gambling Commission will prosecute the business or impose unlimited fines.

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