UK licensed online gambling operators should be aware that yesterday (27 March 2020), following on from the recent coronavirus-related warning message to them by the Gambling Commission’s chief executive, the gambling regulator issued advice to consumers (that you can download below) on how gambling companies should keep them safe while gambling online.
Its advice is set out below:
In light of the Covid-19 outbreak and the government’s latest requirement to stay at home, more people will be engaging with online gambling websites. We have already issued new advice to all licensed gambling companies and outlined our ongoing expectations on them to keep consumers safe.
In this unprecedented time we want to do all we can to reduce the risk of gambling harm. The following guidance outlines the protections that are in place for consumers. We would encourage you to look at these as they are an important part of how gambling companies are required to protect you from harm.
- Online gambling sites have facilities built into them that allow consumers to set a limit on how much they are spending on that site. This can be a useful way for both you as a consumer and for the gambling company to keep spend at a manageable level.
- We have partnered with Twitter to create guidance aimed at supporting users who want to limit the amount of gambling-related content they see on the social media platform. The guidance explains the different ways in which Twitter’s safety tools and settings can be adjusted within an individual account, to help mitigate the risk of exposure to gambling-related messaging and advertisements. Read more here.
- If you think you’re spending too much time gambling, or want help to stop gambling, you can ask to be self-excluded. This is when you ask a gambling operator to stop you from gambling for a period of time. Self-exclusion is an important tool that we require gambling operators to put in place and is available to anyone who wishes to stop gambling for a period of time. An online multi-operator self-exclusion scheme, known as GAMSTOP, has been available since April 2018. To maximise the protections available to you, all licensed online gambling operators are required to participate in the scheme from 31 March 2020. To find out more about GAMSTOP and to register, visit their website.
- Online gambling companies have to be licensed by us to provide gambling to British consumers. In the current circumstances we know there is an increased risk of illegal overseas websites trying to seek British customers. These sites may not have any of the protections that we require. We will be tracking and taking action against such sites where we identify them. You can help by ensuring the website you are gambling with is licensed. To check whether a site is licensed, look for the link to the Gambling Commission’s Licence Register where you can see what type of activities the site is allowed to offer. You can also check whether we have taken any action against them because they have not followed the rules of licensing.
- Gambling businesses must make a summary of their terms and conditions available to you. It is important to read the terms and conditions before you make a decision on which businesses you wish to gamble with and what the risks of gambling are. Read more about what information gambling businesses must give you here.
- Gambling websites must give you access to historic account activity. This means you can request for them to show you exactly when, how much and what you’ve been gambling on over time. This information may help you understand whether you are spending too much time or money gambling.
- Remember that although many of us are having to limit contact with others, when it comes to support and advice about your gambling habits, you are not alone.
- The National Gambling Helpline provides confidential information, advice and support for anyone affected by gambling problems in England, Scotland and Wales. For more information visit gamcare.org.uk
- Public Health England has issued guidance, advice and tips on how to maintain your mental wellbeing if you need to stay at home.
We will continue to monitor the impacts of Covid-19 on gambling. We will be looking carefully at gambling operators’ activities and any new risks to consumers and will continue to take action where needed to protect people from harm.
Although it is not specifically mentioned above, in these current financially uncertain times, well-informed consumers will also be taking account of the level of protection of customer funds that UK licensed gambling operators are obliged to explain in their terms and conditions (by stating if their customers’ money is “not protected”, has “medium protection” or “high protection”). This requirement is intended to help consumers decide whether they want to gamble with an operator and/or how much money they might want to leave in their account with the operator.
In this respect, the Gambling Commission has stated: “We do not approve their assessment, but may we check the accuracy of the rating they have chosen. In each case customers’ money is kept in accounts separate from the business accounts. Where the ratings are different is in the amount of extra protection for that money …. The larger the amount of money which you hold with a gambling company, the more thought you should give to how that company”.
The following Gambling Commission chart summarises the consequences, in practical terms, of each different customer funds protection rating:
|Not protected||No extra protection. Money in these accounts would still be seen as part of the business if it went bust.|
|Medium protection||There are arrangements (eg insurance) to make sure that the money in separate accounts is given to customers if the company goes bust.|
|High protection||Customers’ money is held in an account which is legally and in practice separate from the rest of the company. This account is controlled by an independent person or external auditor.|