The Gambling Commission has today published its “Online Gambling Review” (that can be downloaded below) in which it sets out its “new plans to make gambling online in Britain safer than ever before”.
Those plans include:
- further protecting children by banning operators from providing free-to-play demo games until a consumer’s age has been determined,
- improving the speed and effectiveness of age verification processes,
- ensuring operators set limits on consumers’ spending until affordability checks have been conducted,
- tackling unacceptable marketing and advertising and unfair terms, and improving complaints and disputes procedures and
- strengthening requirements to interact with consumers who may be experiencing, or are at risk of developing, problems with their gambling.
The review also identifies the following areas in relation to which the Commission will be undertaking further work during the coming year.
- assessment of the effectiveness of the current tools available to consumers to manage their gambling,
- reviewing gambling product characteristics to identify whether particular features pose greater risk of harm than others,
- reviewing its requirements on the protection of customer funds and considering whether there are sufficient protections around dormant accounts,
- considering whether gambling on credit should continue to be permitted and
- considering whether it needs to make changes to ensure that consumers can withdraw funds more easily.
The Commission’s proposals are based on the following principles put forward by the Responsible Gambling Strategy Board:
- In the absence of any restrictions on game characteristics, the package of protections which surround a product must be significantly, and demonstrably, stronger.
- Gambling with borrowed money, including through the use of a credit card, is a risk factor and therefore consumers’ ability to gamble with credit should be restricted.
- To the maximum extent possible, consumers should be able to withdraw funds as easily as they are able to deposit them.
- Gambling operators should ensure their customers are 18 or over at the point of registration, not some later point.
- Encouraging a consumer to take greater gambling risks is not the same as upselling in other retail and commercial contexts.
- Responsible gambling information should be accessible, prominent and engaging.
- Operators should dedicate as much energy and creativity to player protection as they do to their commercial activities, and should commit resources to it in sufficient quantity to reflect its importance
Citing statistics showing that:
- industry profits from the online gambling sector have grown 10% to 4.7billion in the last year,
- public participation has increased from 15.5% in 2014 to 18.3% in 2017 and
- an estimated nine million people across Britain gamble online,
Gambling Commission Interim Chief Executive, Neil McArthur, is reported as saying: “Britain has the largest regulated online gambling market in the world and we are continually looking for ways to make it even fairer and safer for consumers. The proposals we have announced today are intended to protect children better, reduce the risks to vulnerable consumers and build on the measures we already impose on operators to know their customers and intervene at an earlier stage before consumers experience harm.”
He is supported by Tracey Crouch, Minister for Sport and Civil Society, who has said: “We are committed to ensuring the gambling industry is safe and sustainable. These proposals for additional regulations will strengthen the controls already in place and further safeguard children and vulnerable people from the risks of online gambling.”
The proposals within the review should act as a spur to operators to respond to the Commission’s current consultation on proposed changes to the LCCP linked to the fair and open licensing objective, on which we have reported here. The deadline for responding to that consultation is 22 April 2018.
UPDATE: The Remote Gambling Association has published the following response to the above review:
“We share with the Gambling Commission the objectives that underpin their review, which is clearly the start of a longer process that will at some stage involve public consultation on firm proposals.
There will always be areas where an industry can and should do better. The online gambling sector is no different and we will work constructively with the Commission to identify and implement any improvements that are evidence-based, proportionate and effective.
Much work is already being undertaken by operators to enhance the safeguards for online gamblers, but it is right for the regulator and others to challenge us to do more. As part of our submission to the separate review being undertaken into gambling by DCMS we have already committed, amongst other things, to:
- Introduce a truly national online self-exclusion for online gamblers;
- Promote cross sector standards of player analytics to identify problematic gambling behaviour and interact with customers to address those problems;
- Support additional advertising restrictions; and
- Promote the introduction of a new independent and transparent statutory social responsibility levy to ensure that adequate funding is in place to provide the levels of research, education and treatment that are needed.
In conclusion, although it is far too early to say exactly what reforms might flow from this review we believe that, taken together with the work that is already underway, the outcome will improve the experience and protections for the online gambling industry’s customers and that must be our shared goal.”