£500 affordability limit for customers of UK licensed gambling operators?

Comments by David Clifton in his current Licensing Expert article for SBC News (entitled ‘Musings on a Pending White Paper’) are mentioned in an article within the second edition of ‘Pinchpoint’, a newsletter from the Department of Trust and BetBudget.

You can read the entire ‘Pinchpoint’ article below:

The £500 Question

We heard it so many times it began to feel like a fact: the UK government is set to impose a £500 affordability limit on operators, and they may not need to change the law to do it: helpful given the pressures on the parliamentary timetable.

Absent a white paper or any clarification from the UKGC the industry remains in the dark as to what this actually means – not just how an operator determines that the limit has been reached, but what they are then supposed to do to determine “affordability” and evidence it to the Commission when asked.

Having a number would in itself at least represent progress. Right now, it’s a game of pin the tail on the donkey. A number means every operator will be working to the same rule.

But without clear rules to accompany it, we find it hard to see how the industry will be able to go forward.

Change is gonna come

There are hints to the government’s thinking if you read between the lines.

In early March, the minister with responsibility for gambling Chris Phillip spoke at a Gambling Reform rally – itself a clue as to where the government is heading.

Notably, within his speech, Phillip cited the recent affordability failures, including the recent sanction against one operator for allowing an NHS worker earning £1,400 a month to set a deposit cap at £1,300 a month. “

“That’s over 90% of their monthly income,” Phillip added. “In addition to that, they allowed another customer to lose £37,000 in an extremely short period of time with no checks whatsoever.”

It seems to us from this that the government is signaling that, once the line has been drawn, they will not be willing to continue to tolerate operators relying on estimates or self-certification of income for anyone spending over the threshold. That’s huge.

As to when we can expect the changes to come into force, it is notable that as UK licensing expert David Clifton said in a recent article a change in primary legislation would likely not be needed.

He pointed to the recent UKGC business plan which suggested that changes proposed in the white paper might be affected through alterations to the Licensing Conditions and Codes of Practice.

What does £500 even mean?

Losses? Deposits? Over what period? Including money won from bonuses? What about money won from other sites? If there’s anything we’ve learned in this industry, there’s no such thing as a simple number.

We don’t envy those whose job it is to write the rules, but we do hope that the industry is consulted in enabling them to devise something workable. Banning bonuses (which has also been mooted) might make the maths easier but feels like the sledgehammer meeting the nut.

Pinchpoint viewpoint: The headlines will be the focus whenever the government finally gets around to publishing its white paper and the prospect of stake limits on slots and potential bans around some forms of gambling advertising are almost certain to be among the measures introduced. An affordability limit might also feature but what the sector will focus on is what is proposed in terms of how such measures are introduced, what they will entail and what operators will be expected to comply with from this point.