The latest round of consultations on the governmental review of the Gambling Act is set to get underway, seeking stakeholder input on the next set of recommendations put forward in the government whitepaper.
Following the conclusion of the first round of consultations in October, the Gambling Commission is now moving forward to consult on the next seven topics outlined in the government recommendations, with a view to shaping the gambling regulation of the future.
The second round consultation is expected to last for around 12 weeks until February or March 2024. The consultation will solicit the views of industry and associated organisations and to explore whether and how the white paper recommendations can be brought onto the statute books.
It follows on from four separate consultations in the first round, which covered age verification in premises, remote games design, direct marketing, cross-selling, and, perhaps most controversially, vulnerability and financial risk checks.
With proposals on seven fresh topics going out for consultation in the coming weeks, the proposals will spark further debate in the gambling world.
Round 2: seven consultation topics
The second round of consultations is broken down to seven topics.
1. Socially responsible incentives - looking closely at welcome bonuses, promotions, free bets and other incentives given to players, to see whether these encourage irresponsible gambling practices or contribute to gambling harms.
2. Customer-led tools - examining proposals that would give consumers more power to control their gambling, including things such as deposit limits which could be used to limit gambling harms.
3. Transparency in customer fund protection - proposals around increasing the transparency of customer fund protection so players are able to tell when their money is being held in separately protected accounts for cases of insolvency.
4. Mandatory annual RET (research, education and treatment for problem gamblers) contributions - exploring proposals for a mandatory contribution to RET to help the government’s aims of reducing gambling harms.
5. Regulatory data - a look at increasing data reporting frequencies for licensees, which would see operators required to submit data to the regulator quarterly instead of annually.
6. Financial penalties and fines - a review of structures for calculating fines and penalties for licensees in breach so that the costs of compliance are less than the costs of non-compliance, and that structures for penalties and how they are calculated are more transparent.
7. Key financial event reporting - proposals that would require licensees to submit more key information about their financials in response to the growing complexity of merger activity within the sector – part of the Commission’s wider desire for a risk-led approach to regulating the sector.
Bonuses under review
Amongst the proposals most likely to be hotly debated over the consultation period are those around player bonuses and incentives. It has been suggested that the Gambling Commission is looking towards wagering requirements being capped, with the whitepaper proposing a further review of bonuses and incentives to “ensure that they are constructed and targeted in a socially responsible manner which does not encourage excessive or harmful gambling".
The whitepaper also discusses the possibility of looking at the time frames involved in meeting wagering requirements and using bonuses, as part of this process. As one of the key tools used to drive customer acquisition throughout the iGaming industry, it is highly likely that slot sites and other operators will have strong opinions on the matter.
There is also set to be a further review of VIP schemes to determine whether these exploit “at-risk” gamblers, and to see whether further regulation is needed to tighten up the rules.
The idea of a mandatory contribution from gambling licensees is another bone of contention. While many in the industry favour the move towards a mandatory system of contribution to replace what is already, in effect, a voluntary but well-funded scheme, there is considerable debate over the level it should be set at, and which types of operators should contribute.
The Betting and Gaming Council, which lobbies on behalf of the gambling industry, said it would not be opposed to a mandatory levy, but that it would expect the same levy to be paid by the National Lottery, which it suggests also has an obligation to shore up responsible gambling messaging and support.
It is anticipated that voices from across the industry and wider stakeholders will have opinions to share on this leg of the consultation.
However the law shapes up, it’s likely that the next iteration of the Gambling Act will introduce a tighter landscape for the regulated sector, with noble aims of protecting players vulnerable to gambling harms. It remains to be seen how the latest round of consultations will feed into that, but we should expect fierce debate from all corners as the consultation progresses.