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The Public Accounts Committee of the House of Commons has claimed that the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) and the UK Gambling Commission (UKGC) have an “unacceptably weak understanding” about the harmful effects of gambling and how to tackle them.

A report from the Committee offers a critique of the failures by DCMS and the Gambling Commission to help an estimated 395,000 problem gamblers in the UK and a further 1.8 million people who are considered at risk.

The report accuses the department of being “unwilling to accept the premise that increasing the commission’s budget to prevent harm would be preferable to spending on treating problem gamblers.”

“What has emerged in evidence is a picture of a torpid, toothless regulator that doesn’t seem terribly interested in either the harms it exists to reduce or the means it might use to achieve that,” Meg Hillier MP, chair of the committee, said.

The committee calls for a published league table of gambling operators, naming and shaming poor performers. It said the department must urgently begin its long-planned review of the Gambling Act, setting out a timetable within three months of the report.

The Betting and Gaming Council (BGC) said in a statement that the industry’s gambling firms were working hard to raise standards.

“Our industry is already heavily regulated. We mustn’t drive customers to offshore, black-market, illegal operators that don’t have any of our safeguards, and we do want to see more action taken against the unregulated industry,” BGC said.