Another gambling operator incurs a penalty for customer interaction failure

Under the terms of a regulatory settlement announced today by the Gambling Commission (that can be downloaded below), bookmaker Mark Jarvis is to pay a total of £94,000 and overhaul its social responsibility procedures after failing to protect a customer who was showing signs of problem gambling. This constituted a breach of LCCP Social Responsibility Code Provision 3.4.1(1) and comes less than a week after the Rank Group incurred a £500,000 penalty for failing to protect a VIP problem gambler.

The Mark Jarvis announcement states that “over a 19-month period the operator failed to follow customer interaction rules when a customer showed problem gambling traits, including spending £34,000 on B2 gaming machines in one betting shop; of this £11,250 was stolen from the customer’s employer”.

The Commission has previously said that “customer interaction describes how you identify people who may be experiencing, or at risk of developing, problems with their gambling, and how you interact with them to offer help or support”. In today’s announcement, it says that “customer interaction codes are in place to ensure operators spot the early signs of problem gambling and then step in to stop harmful gambling”.

Richard Watson, Gambling Commission Executive Director, said:

“This case is a clear example of why gambling operators must have and implement effective social responsibility policies and procedures. All operators, regardless of size, need to ensure they really know their customers”.

The Commission advises operators to consider the following questions to avoid the same issues:

  1. Do you have policies and procedures in place to identify customers who may be experiencing or at risk of developing problems with their gambling?
  2. Have you allocated sufficient resources to be able to interact with customers early and effectively when you have concerns?
  3. Are you curious about your customers?
  4. Do you monitor customer activity?
  5. Do you record interactions?
  6. Do you have systems in place to identify potential problem gamblers?
  7. Do these include appropriate trigger points for when the usual pattern of gambling becomes unusual (these should not be just financial)?
  8. How do you protect new customers (where a pattern of play cannot yet be established)?
  9. Are your staff sufficiently trained to spot problem gamblers and know how to report concerns?
  10. Are there clear procedures once a concern has been raised?
  11. Where concerns arise, are you able to intervene early and engage with a customer?

As we reported in February 2018, the Gambling Commission has published specific Customer interaction guidance for remote gambling operators. Although many of the same principles apply to non-remote gambling operators, we have long thought it would assist if similarly detailed guidance was also published by the Commission for the benefit of the non-remote sector. In the meantime, any operators wishing to ensure they do not suffer the same fate as either the Rank Group or Mark Jarvis should not hesitate to contact us for advice.