UKGC opens consultation on problem gambling

Simona Boshkova | Published 5 Nov 2020, 11:59 a.m.

The UK Gambling Commission (UKGC) has started a few initiatives that should protect players from gambling harm. For instance, the regulator set out new rules for VIP schemes to keep high-value customers safe. Also, it invited the financial sector to consider a partnership in order to tackle gambling harm. Among these activities, UKGC has imposed new licence conditions on a couple of operators, including BGO Entertainment Limited, GAN PLC and NetBet Enterprises Limited.

Back in July, the Gambling Commission opened a consultation on curbing online slot games. Now, the regulator is opening another consultation and is calling for views from the industry, consumers and other stakeholders on stronger requirements for problem gambling.

The consultation includes customer affordability checks

About two days ago, the UK Gambling Commission opened a consultation calling for feedback from the industry, consumers and other stakeholders on stronger requirements on online operators. The consultation will be opened until January 12, 2021, after which the UKGC will conduct a short supplementary consultation to examine its findings. The entire process will last no longer than 14 weeks.

This should help to identify consumers who may be at risk of gambling harm and to then take action to prevent those harms. In addition, the regulator is calling the stakeholders to conduct customer affordability checks and see if the customer’s gambling is affordable at thresholds set by the Commission. At the same time, UKGC is calling for evidence on what the thresholds for these affordability checks should be and what the nature of those checks is.

The UKGC said that remote gambling operators can already identify customers who may be harmed by gambling. However, the regulator believes that the industry has not used this capability sufficiently to reduce harms. For that reason, the regulator is consulting on stronger requirements that will help ensure that operators do more to identify customers who may be at risk. Then, the operators will interact with them and take early action to prevent harm.

Operators don’t set thresholds for action at appropriate levels

UKGC executive director Tim Miller said that their casework and experience showed that operators don’t set thresholds for action at appropriate levels and don’t act quickly when they identify the risk of potential harm. For that reason, the Commission wants to have an open consultation with the gambling industry and other stakeholders, to ensure that they strike the right balance between allowing consumer freedom and ensuring that there are protections in place to prevent gambling harm.

The Commission has identified failures to meet with their requirements and have taken enforcement actions, and will continue to do so. However, it’s important that operators learn the lesson from this consultation and understand whether a customer is gambling beyond their means or not. This consultation explores the risks UKGC has identified and how the industry, including the financial sector, can help to mitigate these risks.

The consultation comes as the UK government is allegedly preparing to launch its awaited review of the 2005 Gambling Act. UKGC will also release further material as part of their engagement with consumers during the consultation and will enable the broadest possible range of consumers to share their views.