David Clifton comments on forthcoming age verification requirement

David Clifton is quoted in an EGR Compliance article by Scott Longley, entitled “The UK ageverification ratchet, that focuses on:

  1. the LCCP changes on age and identity verification requirements for remote gambling operators that will come into force on 7 May 2019,
  2. the new gambling advertising standards to protect under 18 year olds that come into force on 1 April 2019, and
  3. last month’s ASA ruling against Tombola International PLC.

To expand on David’s comments quoted in the article, our views are as follows:

  • The Gambling Commission has been exerting an ever-tighter grip on the UK gambling sector ever since its consumer protection focus came much more to the fore in 2014/15.
  • Of all the clampdowns that have taken place over the last couple of years, the forthcoming new age verification requirement is probably one of the least surprising. Although – coupled with the new requirement for earlier identity verification – it will financially hurt all affected licence-holders, small operators are likely to feel a disproportionately high measure of economic pain.
  • It should be noted that the new age verification requirement for free-to-play versions of “gambling games” will apply solely to websites of those who hold operating licences granted by the Gambling Commission. It will not apply to non-licence holders (including those who supply solely social games or social casino games), over whom the Commission has no regulatory powers.
  • Insofar as free-to-play games are concerned, as matters currently stand, allowing under 18 year olds to access such games on a licensed gambling operator’s website. The Commission is concerned that this serves to directly expose them to real money gambling opportunities, which is why it wants availability of such free-to-play tester products to be restricted solely to consumers whose age has first been verified.
  • In this respect, the Commission draws a distinction between free-to-play games and social casino games
    • It points out that the latter are available from generic platforms that provide a wide variety of apps and consumers are not able to access a real-money prize version of a social casino game within the same app.
    • By way of contrast, one of the motivations of  accessing free-to-play games on a licensed gambling operator’s website is to encourage players to familiarise themselves with a game before they play the real-money version that can only be accessed by adults.
  • However, the Commission has warned that whether or not it advises Government of the need for additional regulation for the social casino sector will depend on operators within that sector “pursuing a proactive and credible approach to social responsibility and an awareness of potential harm, which must continue to encompass best practice consumer measures”.
  • In the case of the ASA ruling in the Tombola case (to which reference is made in the article), the “I’m a Celebrity, Get Me Out Of Here” app had no built-in mechanism to target ads towards, or away from, certain groups of users, which is why the ASA decided that Tombola had not taken sufficient care in its selection of media, to ensure that its ads were directed at an audience aged 18 and over so as to minimise under-18s’ exposure to them.

The article itself can be downloaded below.