New Gambling Commission consultation on age and identity verification

In an online survey consultation published today – that is relevant to all remote gaming and betting licence holders and the small number of society lotteries and external lottery managers who enable customers to participate in online ‘instant win’ or digital scratchcard games – the Gambling Commission is inviting gambling operators, consumers and members of the public to voice their opinion (and provide any relevant supporting evidence) on proposed changes to the Commission’s Licence conditions and codes of practice that are intended to further protect children and to keep gambling fair and safe.

The Commission is also keen to hear by 27 November 2018 from identity verification solution providers, in particular where they can provide details of technological and information capabilities.

These proposed changes would require online gambling businesses to verify:

  • the age of customers before they can:
    • deposit money or gamble, by removing the current LCCP requirement that licensees to carry out age verification (AV) checks within 72 hours, along with the exception for credit cards (which the Commission does not believe are, on their own, a satisfactory form of age identification) or
    • access free-to-play versions of gambling games that licensees make available on their website on the ground that although free-to-play games are not technically gambling (as there is no prize involved), the Commission believes there to be no legitimate reason why they should be available to children;
  • the identity of a customer (including their name, address, date of birth and email address) before they are allowed to gamble; it should be noted that although this proposed condition would apply to the verification of new customers from the date it took effect (which is proposed to be April 2019), the Commission also expects licensees to verify the identities of their existing customers, to the standards required by the proposed new condition, if necessary by taking any retrospective action to obtain and verify the details of existing customers;
  • that the name associated with the customer’s payment method matches the name of the gambling account holder.

More detail (and notice of a further consultation in due course) is contained in the following overview that is set out by the Commission at the beginning of its online survey:

“In March 2018 we published our Review of online gambling. It set out several policy recommendations and areas of further work. Two of those recommendations were to strengthen the existing requirements to verify a customer’s age and identity.

The review outlined the following specific proposals for consultation, to amend our Licence Conditions and Codes of Practice (LCCP)

  • Requiring remote licensees to verify the age of all remote gambling customers before they can deposit money or gamble, and also before they can access play-for-free versions of gambling games that licensees make available on their websites
  • Requiring remote licensees to verify more information about their customers at an earlier stage in the relationship, to ensure they are better equipped to reduce the risks to the licensing objectives.

We also intend to consult at a later date on proposals that would mean licensees have to set limits on customers’ gambling activity which can only be changed once the licensee has verified further information about the customer. The purpose of this is to reduce the risk of gambling-related harm. Information the licensee could seek to verify might, for example, include:

  • financial indicators to assess whether a customer can afford their current levels of gambling – this could be with reference to customer-specific data such as their credit profile information, or more generic sources such as postcode deprivation indices
  • behavioural indicators such as time spent or intensity of gambling, which the licensee can monitor from the start of the customer relationship 
  • problem gambling self-assessment screens completed by the customers.

This information could inform the licensee’s decision whether to relax or retain the original account limits.

At this stage, we are not consulting on introducing a specific licence condition or code about account limits. But, as part of this consultation, we are asking for any information or evidence of good practice that helps licensees and customers to ensure gambling remains fair and safe. We are interested in information aboutexisting practice, current plans and what may be possible in future. This is an opportunity for respondents to influence any future specific proposals.

This consultation is relevant to all remote gaming and betting licensees, and we encourage any licensee or prospective licensees to share their views along with any supporting evidence or insight. We are also keen to hear from identity verification solution providers, in particular where they can provide details of technological and information capabilities. 

Our proposals might also affect a very small number of society lotteries and external lottery managers – those who enable customers to participate in online ‘instant win’ or digital scratchcard games. We have engaged with the lottery licensees that we think will be affected and welcome formal responses from them.

We also welcome responses from gambling customers or those impacted by gambling. For example, we are interested in customers’ views about the kinds of personal information that gambling licensees should ask for and review to keep gambling fair and safe.

We intend to bring resulting changes to licence conditions and codes into effect in April 2019″.

Brad Enright, Gambling Commission Programme Director, is quoted as saying:

“Our aim is to protect children, reduce gambling-related harm and keep gambling fair and crime-free. We would encourage anyone with an interest in gambling matters to read our consultation and ensure they have their say on these proposals.”

POSTSCRIPT: Worthy of note is that the proposed new age verification requirement for those accessing free-to-play versions of gambling games will apply solely to Gambling Commission licence-holders. This means that no such requirement will apply to non-licence-holders. However, if anyone within this latter category is contemplating a future operating licence application to the Commission, we would suggest they contact us for advice before applying.