‘Department of Trust’ (‘DoTrust’) is the name of a company registered with the UK Financial Conduct Authority (‘FCA’) as an Open Banking Account Information Service Provider Agent.
It was founded in 2021 by gaming industry veteran Charles Cohen, co-founder of mobile gambling pioneers Probability plc, who also served as Vice President of Mobile and Sports Betting for IGT plc from 2014 to 2020. On its website (describing its BetBudget app), it further explains:
DoTrust was born from Charles’ 20 years as an operator and platform creator in iGaming and sports betting. He wanted to find a way to remove the friction involved in affordability checking, in the interests of both players and operators. He had seen the damage which can be done by problem gambling, and the difficulties which operators have in gathering the information needed to treat all customers fairly and without intrusive and ill timed interventions which derive from lack of information
Department of Trust, through our B2C App and B2B APIs and interfaces, provides a mechanism for gambling operators to access a range of reports and monitoring of their customer’s financial circumstances for compliance with affordability and responsible gambling regulations
It has hit gambling media headlines with the following press release, reporting on findings from a survey (conducted in the week to 17 March 2022 on its behalf by YouGov) of 700 current and recent UK gamblers (excluding Lottery only players).
Affordability crisis for gambling industry as rising cost of living causes half of active UK gamblers to reduce spend
London, 29 March 2022: A new poll has found that half of all active gamblers in the UK are expecting to either stop gambling altogether or reduce their spend due to the pressure on their finances from the rising cost of living.
The poll was conducted by YouGov on behalf of the Affordability solutions provider Department of Trust (DoTrust) in mid-March 2022 amongst a representative sample of current, active gamblers.
- 32% of respondents said they will spend less on gambling in the coming months while a further 18% say they will stop playing entirely.
- 59% said the reductions are directly due to pressure on their finances.
- 11% of respondents said they were already struggling to meet even essential bills and expenses.
- 43% said they were consciously cutting back on non-essentials while 38% said they were watching what they spend without, as yet, making any changes.
According to Charles Cohen, chief executive and founder of DoTrust, the findings should be an alarm bell for a gambling sector already under increasing pressure to ensure players are able to afford their gambling.
“Inflation is at levels not seen for decades and this is translating into a fast moving affordability crisis for the gambling industry. Wait-and-see is not an option: operators need real time financial data more than ever,” Cohen said.
More information regarding the methodology used in the YouGov research has not as yet been made available. Time will tell whether the projected reduction in gambling spend occurs in line with the reported findings. However, with UK inflation reported to be rising at its fastest rate for 30 years, it can be expected that these research findings are likely to catch the eye of the Gambling Commission that, in May 2020, published COVID-19 lockdown-related additional formal customer interaction guidance for remote UK licensed gambling operators. That additional guidance, which has never been explicitly withdrawn, stated that:
“…. licensees should ensure they have the following measures implemented into their customer interaction framework for the purposes of preventing gambling related harm: Reviews of all thresholds and triggers used to track vulnerability to ensure that they reflect changed financial circumstances that many consumers will be experiencing. An emphasis should be placed on those thresholds and triggers being proactively reset on a precautionary basis to ensure customers with emerging vulnerability …. can be identified”.
The Gambling Commission’s Remote Customer Interaction consultation and Call for Evidence (that ran between November 2020 and February 2021) sought views on introducing some of its existing Customer Interaction Guidance into its Licence Conditions and Codes of Practice (‘LCCP’) with a view to clarifying its expectations of remote operators in this respect. In a May 2021 ‘update’, the Commission reported that it had received approximately 13,000 responses (i.e. 1,000 responses to its full consultation and Call for Evidence, and 12,000 to its short survey), resulting in consequential delays.
We are now led to understand that the Commission will finally be publishing the outcome of that consultation “in the coming months”, setting out new LCCP requirements and guidance on implementation of those requirements in a manner that is proportionate with the harm/potential harm observed. Given the widespread uncertainty amongst both operators and their advisors (as evidenced by comments within an article entitled ‘UKGC fines already close to total for the whole of 2021’ in the inaugural edition of ‘The Pinchpoint’, published by DoTrust) with regard to the regulator’s current expectations in this respect, many will consider the sooner that the consultation outcome is published, the better.
As part of that same consultation and Call for Evidence process, the Commission also sought views on the issue of ‘affordability’, that had first formally been introduced within the above-mentioned Customer Interaction Guidance in 2019. As foreshadowed in the Commission’s above-mentioned May 2021 ‘update’, as well as speeches by (a) the Commission’s then Acting Joint Chief Executive, Sarah Gardner that same month and (b) its Executive Director, Tim Miller, in September 2021, it is anticipated that a new consultation will be launched imminently on proposals for LCCP provisions (and associated guidance) requiring operators to conduct financial risk assessments once a customer has breached relevant threshold level or levels to mitigate the risks of:
- ‘binge gambling’, involving significant losses in a very short time,
- ‘clearly unaffordable’ gambling involving significant losses over a longer period of time, and
- financial vulnerability, where information is available that shows when customers are particularly financially vulnerable and likely to be harmed by their level of gambling.