As the UK gambling reform consultations continue, players and operators alike wait with bated breath to find out how they will be affected. Perhaps unsurprisingly, whilst the white paper and consultations have been answering many of our questions, they’ve been raising a few as well.
The white paper
Summer 2023 saw the publication of the UK gambling reform white paper, which contained a report on the current state of the British gambling industry, particularly with regard to problem gambling, and proposed a number of routes to take.
Since then, consultations between the Gambling Commission, operators, individuals, and gambling addiction charities such as GamCare have been underway. It is expected that these conversations will inform new legislation that could reshape the UK gambling industry in the coming months and years.
Some of the proposed changes include stake limits on slot games, introducing some new rules which apply specifically to young adults within the 18 to 24 age bracket, and implementing a better system of financial risk checks, including both a ‘light-touch’ check and full financial assessments.
Over the first five weeks of consultations, the UKGC received more than 1,500 responses, with Chief Executive Andrew Rhodes now calling for clarity.
“There’s a very high level of misunderstanding about what these consultations actually say, particularly when it comes to financial risk checks."
His recent post on the UKGC website elaborates on some of the terminology surrounding risk checks and seeks to “clarify the most frequent misconceptions”.
There are two proposed levels of player assessment. The first is a front-line “frictionless” search of public data, and the second is a more thorough, and potentially more invasive search. Neither would reveal the player’s bank account, nor influence their credit rating.
‘Light touch’ clarification
Rhodes’ recent post expanded on the possibility of a light-touch check which assesses a player’s financial vulnerability using data which is already publicly available—such as by searching data pertaining to bankruptcy, for example.
It has been suggested that around 20% of players would be subject to this check and that most players would not need to do anything, nor would it have any adverse effect on their records.
Players singled out for this check would likely be those who had made a net loss of £125 in a 30-day period, or £500 in the preceding 365 days. Those deemed low risk would not be reassessed for another 12 months.
How the operator uses this information to determine the appropriate course of action is at their discretion. However it is hoped that the data may serve as a useful early indicator of problem gambling.
Full financial assessments
One proposal is that players who exhibit specific behaviours and meet certain loss quotas should be subjected to a more thorough and comprehensive financial background check.
Players whose loss levels are higher, defined as being greater than £1,000 within 24 hours or £2,000 within 90 days—not counting re-staked winnings and bonuses—would trigger an automatic financial risk assessment, which has no adverse effect on a player’s financial records. Instead, it would reveal substantially more about their affairs than the aforementioned ‘light-touch’ assessment.
If the proposed time frames are implemented, higher-risk players would be subject to being re-checked every 6 months.
Concerns and limitations
There are a number of issues raised by the possibility of new financial assessments.
Firstly, regardless of how “frictionless” they are, they could be perceived as invasive and intrusive, violating player privacy. There is also the concern that player data may be misused, although the Commission has plans to prevent this.
One concern is that the new measures may drive some players towards the black market, whether physical or online, where legislation has no influence whatsoever.
These risk checks apply only to online gambling, and not to brick-and-mortar casinos or betting shops, limiting their effectiveness. They’re also across the board, rather than being specifically targeted at more high-loss games such as slots.
Whilst the process could be automated for the most part, the burden of carrying out tests ultimately falls on operators, who will have to bear the costs.
What happens next?
The consultations have several more weeks to go, but the end is in sight. The UKGC certainly has an unenviable task ahead of it in trying to strike a balance between protecting vulnerable players and not encroaching on the freedoms and privacies of individuals. Regarding whether or not new legislation will manage to walk this fine line, for now, the jury remains out. Consultations will finish in late October and we will report back again shortly thereafter.