In an announcement entitled “Gambling Commission introduces new rules to make gambling fairer and safer” (that can be downloaded below) the Commission has given notice of forthcoming changes to its Licence Conditions and Codes of Practice (“LCCP”) that it says are intended to:
- raise standards for alternative dispute resolution (ADR) – coming into force on 31 October 2019,
- strengthen requirements on how licensees identify and interact with customers who may be at risk of or experiencing gambling harms – coming into force on 31 October 2019 (with no consequential effect on the Commission’s existing guidance to gambling operators entitled “Complaints and disputes: procedural, information provision and reporting requirements”) and
- improve the transparency of funding for problem gambling research, prevention and treatment (by setting a list of bodies to which businesses can contribute) – coming into force on 1 January 2020, the Commission stating that a longer implementation date has been allowed in order to provide time within which bodies that are currently in receipt of such funds might seek approval from it.
The highly topical issue of affordability is raised in the Commission’s consultation responses document (that can also be downloaded below). In this respect, the Commission notes that “use of both general and customer specific financial data and the concept of individual affordability was raised” in responses to the customer interaction consultation.
It adds that its “expectations around affordability have been included in [its] guidance on customer interaction and more detail is in [its] recently published Enforcement report 2018/19“. In the former of these, the Commission states:
Affordability and a customer’s personal circumstances
2.8 Historically, gambling operators have not systematically considered customer affordability when developing their customer interaction policies. Many have used deposit or loss thresholds as a main or sole prompt for a customer interaction, but these have often been set at levels that were inappropriately high, in comparison to the average amount of money that the majority of people have available to spend on leisure activities. This has led to a number of examples of customers spending more than they could afford, and this not being identified sufficiently early, as seen in much of the Commission’s compliance and enforcement casework since 2017.
2.9 Operators should aim to identify those experiencing or at risk of harm and intervene to try to reduce harm at the earliest opportunity. Reliance on deposit or loss thresholds that are set too high will result in failing to detect some customers who may be experiencing significant harms associated with their gambling. It is therefore imperative that threshold levels are set appropriately.
2.10 Open source data exists which can help operators assess affordability for their GB customer base and improve their risk assessment for customer interactions. Thresholds should be realistic, based on average available income for your customers. This should include the Office of National Statistics publications on levels of household income.
2.11 In considering these thresholds, you should be aware of the difference between ‘disposable income’ and ‘discretionary income’ which refers to the amount left after living costs are taken into account, but it does still include many other unavoidable costs. Most people would consider it harmful if they were spending a significant amount of their discretionary income on gambling.
The Commission’s newly published “Customer interaction – formal guidance for premises based operators” and “Customer interaction – formal guidance for remote gambling operators” can both be downloaded below. We strongly recommend that operators commence implementation of each item of guidance with immediate effect.
The above-mentioned changes follow the Commission’s consultation on ADR and customer interaction (as reported by us in February this year) and publication in March 2018 of its paper entitled “Reviewing the research, education and treatment (RET) arrangements” (as reported at the time by us here).
In today’s announcement (that can be downloaded below), the Commission summarises the changes as follows:
Changes to alternative resolution providers (ADR)
The additional standards cover aspects such as customer service, decision making and governance. They make the role of an ADR provider clearer, improve consistency, and reassure consumers that a provider is independent of the gambling business.
These rules will come into force on 31 October 2019 and will affect all licences (including ancillary remote licensees) except gaming machine technical and gambling software licences.
Changes to customer interaction
The requirements on businesses to interact with customers at risk of or experiencing harm have been strengthened. The new requirements focus more on the outcomes of identifying and interacting with customers who may be at risk of or experiencing harms associated with gambling, as well as assessing the impact that a customer interaction has on an individual consumer and the effectiveness of businesses’ overall approach.
These rules will come into force on 31 October 2019 and will affect all licences, except non-remote lottery, gaming machine technical, gambling software and host licences. Read the guidance for remote and non-remote operators on customer interaction.
Changes to how operators contribute to research, prevention and treatment
The Commission is committed to pushing operators to meet their responsibilities under the current voluntary arrangements for funding for research, prevention and treatment. The new rules will ensure that funds contributed by gambling businesses to meet the requirements of their licence are targeted at delivering the National Strategy to Reduce Gambling Harms in Britain, by setting a list of bodies to which businesses can contribute.
The change will also support greater transparency of the amounts contributed by gambling businesses over time.
These rules will come into force on 1 January 2020 and will affect all licences.
Paul Hope, Commission Executive Director, is quoted as saying:
These changes have been designed to make gambling fairer and safer for consumers and we expect gambling firms to meet their responsibilities in these areas.