All UK licensed online gambling operators must participate in GAMSTOP by 31 March 2020

Albeit slightly overshadowed by its announcement of a credit card ban for all forms of remote gambling and non-remote betting with effect from 14 April 2020, the Gambling Commission has also announced this morning (14 January 2020) that, by no later than 31 March 2020, all applicable UK licensed online gambling operators must participate in the multi-operator self-exclusion scheme GamStop.

Coming 19 weeks after The Guardian mistakenly stated that GamStop “has finally been approved by the industry regulator, 18 months after it was supposed to be ready”, today’s announcement by the Commission has nevertheless arrived rather sooner than the one month’s formal notice required under LCCP social responsibility code provision 3.5.5 (a) of the establishment of a national online multi-operator self-exclusion scheme and (b) that all online licence holders are required to participate in it, with the exception of the holders of the following categories of operating licence:

  • any remote lottery licence the holder of which does not provide facilities for participation in instant win lotteries,
  • ancillary remote betting,
  • remote general betting (remote platform),
  • remote betting intermediary (trading room only),
  • remote general betting (limited),
  • gaming machine technical,
  • gambling software,
  • host,
  • ancillary remote bingo, and
  • ancillary remote casino licences.

The Commission’s announcement (that can be downloaded below) states that GamStop has been “developed for the online sector will allow consumers to self-exclude from online operators with one request rather than from each operator individually. With over 200 online operators this will make access to self-exclusion much simpler for those who wish to be prevented from online gambling”.

Neil McArthur, Gambling Commission CEO, says:

By the 31 March all online operators will be required to participate in the multi-operator self-exclusion scheme. Although the vast majority of operators are already participating in GamStop this will make the coverage comprehensive.

We welcome the fact that GamStop have got to this stage in their development and encourage them to continue to improve their offer, particularly in relation to preventing those who have self-excluded being targeted by direct marketing.

It is important that self-exclusion schemes are as effective as possible and they will be most effective when used in combination with other blocking tools such as gambling blocking software and payment card blocking.

Operators must do everything they can to minimise the risk of gambling related harm.  That is why we expect the industry to create safe products, know their customers, understand what they can afford to gamble with and identify when they are experiencing harm and step in.

It is also vital that people experiencing gambling harm are able to access the support or treatment they need. This forms part of our ongoing work with our partners to implement the National Strategy for Reducing Gambling Harms.

Commenting on the GamStop announcement, Culture Minister Helen Whately is quoted as saying:

We have been clear to all businesses that have connections to gambling, such as operators, social media platforms and banks, that they must be socially responsible and use the power of technology and data to help consumers manage their spending and protect them from harm.

I have been encouraged by the majority of major high street banks introducing measures to allow customers to switch off spending on gambling through mobile apps.

By making it a regulatory requirement for all online gambling websites licensed in Great Britain to sign up to Gamstop. I am confident that people who have taken the significant step to opt out of gambling will be well supported, alongside a wide range of other tools.

This announcement has been a long time coming, meaning that operators have had plenty of time to register to participate in GamStop. Little sympathy will exist for those who may seek to complain now that they have insufficient time to do so. In fact, because the LCCP SR code provision 3.5.5 mentioned above envisages one month’s notice being given by the Gambling Commission, the announcement means that operators have been given more than twice that period of notice. Those wishing to register for GAMSTOP as a remote licensed gambling operator should contact [email protected] as soon as possible.

UPDATES:

  • On 29 January 2020, following queries from society lotteries, the Gambling Commission published Guidance for society lotteries and ELMs on the credit card ban and GAMSTOPThis confirms that the only lottery operators that need to participate in GamStop are those who offer online Instant Win Games (and then only in relation to those games).
  • You can access here a list of participating companies as it stood on 31 March 2020, the first day that participation in the scheme became compulsory.