In its response to last September’s consultation on age and identity verification for remote gambling, the Gambling Commission has today published a ‘consultation response’ document, announcing changes to its Licence Conditions and Codes of Practice (“LCCP”) that will come into force on 7 May 2019.
It has also published a summary of the key changes (that, together with the consultation response, can be downloaded below). The changes will apply to remote betting and gaming operators, as well as lotteries (other than those lotteries that only offer subscription or low frequency lotteries).
The Commission states on its website that these changes “will ensure operators verify customers’ age and identity details faster which will benefit consumers”, adding:
Safer for children
Until now, online gambling businesses have been allowed 72 hours to carry out age verification checks. The operator cannot permit customers to withdraw winnings until age verification has been completed and must return stakes if the person is found to be underage.
But to guard against the risk of children gambling, new rules mean operators must verify customer age before the customer can:
- deposit funds into an account
- gamble with the licensee with either their own money or a free bet or bonus.
In addition, the Commission is now also insisting that customers must be age verified before they are able to access free-to-play versions of gambling games on licensees’ websites. While free-to-play games are not technically gambling (there is no prize involved), there is no legitimate reason why they should be available to children.
Fairer and safer
In March 2018 the Commission announced that some online operators were treating customers unfairly by requesting additional identity information when the customer attempted to withdraw winnings. Around 15% of complaints to its contact centre were about licensees not allowing a customer to withdraw funds until they submit certain forms of ID.
The new rules require remote licensees to:
- verify, as a minimum, the name, address and date of birth of a customer before allowing them to gamble
- ask for any additional verification information promptly
- inform customers, before they can deposit funds, of the types of identity documents or other information that might be required, the circumstances in which the information might be required, and how it should be supplied to the licensee
- take reasonable steps to ensure that information on their customers’ identities remains accurate.
The changes will help operators better prevent harm or detect criminal activity because they have more information about their customers. In addition, the changes will mean that operators cannot demand that customers submit ID as a condition of cashing out, if they could have asked for that information earlier.
Finally, the changes will increase the likelihood that someone will be identified if they attempt to gamble while self-excluded. This applies equally to the operator’s own self-exclusion schemes and the online multi-operator self-exclusion scheme, Gamstop. This is because effective verification by operators will mean that a customer will not be verified, and therefore unable to gamble, until they provide correct details. These details will then be checked against both the operator’s own self-exclusion database and the verified data held by Gamstop.
Neil McArthur, Gambling Commission Chief Executive, is quoted as saying:
These changes will protect children and the vulnerable from gambling-related harm, and reduce the risk of crime linked to gambling. They will also make gambling fairer by helping consumers collect their winnings without unnecessary delay. Britain’s online gambling market is the largest regulated market in the world and we want to make sure it is the safest and the fairest. Today’s changes follow our review of online gambling and our ongoing widespread regulatory action into the online sector. We will keep using our powers to raise standards for consumers.
Jeremy Wright, Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, is quoted as saying:
These significant changes mean operators must check someone’s age before they gamble, and not after. They rightly add an extra layer of protection for children and young people who attempt to gamble online. By extending strong age verification rules to free-to-play games we are creating a much safer online environment for children, helping to shut down a possible gateway to gambling- related harm.
As previously advised, the Gambling Commission will shortly be launching a consultation on plans to make explicit its expectations about how operators should interact with a customer who may be experiencing gambling-related harm and it will also be calling for evidence on the use of gambling blocking software.