On the same day that the Betting & Gaming Council has today (27 June 2020) announced that its members will cease TV & radio gaming advertising during the COVID-19 lockdown in the UK, the UK Gambling Commission has published on its website the following “Advice to consumers on how gambling companies should keep you safe while betting online” (that you can download below).
Gambling Commission issues advice to consumers on how gambling companies should keep you safe while betting online
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.
- 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.
- 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.
UPDATE: The Gambling Commission has also now published advice for consumers on its website entitled “Why ID verification is important”. It reads as follows:
Why ID verification is important
When you open an account with an online gambling company, the company needs to check who you are. It does this for three main reasons:
- to check you are old enough to gamble
- to check whether you have self-excluded from gambling
- to confirm your identity.
The company can often do this by looking at databases that hold a range of information about people and matching that with the information on your account.
But there may be occasions when this information is not enough to be sure who you are. For example, if information has been spelt wrongly or people with similar names live at the same address. In these situations you may be asked to provide copies of documents that prove who you are. This could include passports, driving licences and household bills.
Checking you are old enough to gamble
If you have opened an account, the company must check that you are old enough to gamble before allowing you to deposit money or access any free-to-play games. If it can’t confirm your age, your account will not be activated.
Checking you have not self-excluded
You can ask to self-exclude from a gambling company’s site. If you do that, the company must take reasonable steps to prevent you from gambling. Those steps can include checking that someone creating an account is not a self-excluded person trying to gamble under a different identity.
Checking you are not using criminal proceeds
There are laws that try to prevent criminals spending money gained through crime and turning it into legitimate looking funds. They may attempt to use gambling websites for this purpose and gambling companies must deal with that risk by checking the identity of their customers.
In our rules we say that gambling companies must be able to identify separate accounts that are held with them by the same person. It is for the companies to decide whether they allow customers to have more than one account. If one does not, it might ask for information to help it make sure that a customer only has one account. If a company does allow multiple accounts, it may choose to ask customers for information to help it monitor those accounts, including for the reasons mentioned above. Offers created by the company, such as free bets and bonuses, are often limited to one per customer. It might seek information to check that customers are not getting around these limits.
When the gambling company is checking your identity for another reason, it can freeze your account until it has confirmed who you are. There is no time limit on how long it can do this for. If you have asked to withdraw funds from your account, the company must not demand that you provide additional information as a condition of releasing those funds, if they could have reasonably asked for that information earlier. However, the company can still ask you to provide information if they need to ask for it at that time to meet an obligation in the law.
We tell the gambling companies that they must know their customers are old enough to gamble and confirm their identity. We do not say what sorts of information they should ask for. If you are not happy about the information you have been asked to give, you must to contact the company direct.