UK Re-wired – UK Gambling Act 2005 under the Spotlight

On 21 September 2022), David Clifton moderated a very well attended panel session entitled ‘UK Re-wired – UK Gambling Act 2005 under the Spotlight’ at this year’s SBC Summit Barcelona – the ‘Global Betting and iBetting Show’.

You can view the whole of the session on here.

David’s panellists (shown left to right after David on the far left hand side of the below photograph) were:

  • Adam Doyle, Head of Gaming, TruNarrative
  • Sophie Platts, Head of Safer Gambling and External Affairs, Entain Group
  • Guy Harding, Commercial Strategy & Safer Gambling Director, oddschecker
  • Tom Banks, Head of Corporate Affairs UK/ Global, Kindred

Following on shortly after rumours starting circulating the the UK Government’s Gambling Act Review White Paper might face the guillotine (as reported by us here), the panel discussion encompassed the following topics:

  • the ongoing affordability conundrum, highlighting the urgent need for considerably greater clarity from the UK Gambling Commission in relation to its precise expectations of UK licensed gambling operators
  • the forthcoming UKGC consultation on financial vulnerability
  • the confusion arising from the UKGC’s ‘Remote Customer Interaction requirements and guidance update’
  • the UKGC’s recent warning that it will be ramping up [its] work and engagement to ensure that operators and their boards are under no illusion that non-compliance won’t be accepted and will be met with an ever-increasing and harsher programme of sanctions as part of [its] work to ensure [it] regulates effectively”
  • RAiG’s position regarding affiliate licensing
  • reaction to the rumour that there may be no Gambling Act Review White Paper within the near future (or not al all).

Subsequently commenting on this panel session, Earnings+More have reported as follows:

CDC Reports has picked up on other aspects of the panel session, stating as follows in its ‘Operators call for clarity on UK regulatory expectations article’:

Kindred head of UK corporate affairs Tom Banks said that although casinos have been taking steps to improve player protection by their own volition, clarity on what good looks like in the eyes of the regulator is still critical.

Oddschecker head of commercial Guy Harding agreed, pointing out that definitions and benchmarks vary wildly across jurisdictions, making it hard to guess the expectations of a single regulator.

“I was reading a report which looked at what the Division of Gaming Enforcement in New Jersey was looking at for affordability thresholds”, Harding said. “And we’re £2,000 over three months, but they were looking at $100,000 deposit over 90 days and a million dollars in stakes over 90 days. That shows the relative thresholds for New Jersey versus the UK.”

Harding said it’s not just affordability that is yet to be defined, highlighting that some operators refer to “recreational customers” as being those that are low risk.

“But no one has said what that even means”, he stated. “And the other thing to bear in mind is it’s a moving feast. So if you’re a recreational customer at inception or sign up, you won’t always be and it’s the flows people need to be very careful of.”

Entain Group head of safer gambling and external affairs Sophie Platts said her company had established a five-year partnership with Harvard Medical School to identify at-risk player behaviours and work out how best to intervene.

“We gave them our anonymized data sets. They reviewed them and looked at different cohorts of customers. And one of the things that was most surprising for a lot of people is that the highest-spending customers were actually some of the lowest when you compare them on PGSI [Problem Gambling Severity Index]. So it isn’t necessarily all about financial spend. Lots of behavioural indicators are missed from this conversation as well”, she explained.

Both Platts and Lexis Nexis Risk Solutions head of gaming Adam Doyle also raised the problem of gaining access to data and doing so without creating so much friction in the user journey that the product loses appeal or data-protection rules are violated.

Platts said Entain is working on a single-customer-view pilot with the UK’s Information Commissioner’s Office and the Betting & Gaming Council.

“We will look initially at those on a higher harm level, basically, those that have perhaps self-excluded from one of our brands. We want to tell other operators, ‘This person was self-excluded; you might want to watch and make sure they don’t spend too heavily with yourselves’. And then those that have been highly flagged on our algorithms as well”, she said.

This is a rudimentary step towards creating an industry-wide database of gambling customers, which prevents those at risk of harm from being known to and blocked from one operator, but able to gamble with another due to a lack of information sharing.

Banks called for greater access to customer data in order to improve player protection. He said in Kindred’s experience, just one in 10 customers is willing to supply payslips or bank statements to an operator.

“So the other nine out of 10 are either going elsewhere or eventually, if every licensed operator has to do that, there’s only one other place, or a couple of other places, they can go, and the grey market is one of them”, he said.


1. The 28 September 2022 edition of The Pinchpoint also picks up on comments made during the Panel session moderated by David Clifton at the SBC Summit Barcelona on 21 September, reporting as follows:

Declines and falls

A recent post from Regulus Partners examined the long-term trend in activity and value of individual customers at a number of the largest operators. The short version is they are both in decline.

While the pandemic occurred over the period shown above, the downward trends for revenues per active across slots, betting and other forms of gaming are clear. As Regulus points out, the year-on-year comparisons for Entain, Flutter and 888-William Hill show total online revenues off by ~15% with betting down a “painful” 26%.

This is the commercial backdrop to the reform of the gambling industry, of which affordability checks are a major part.

Some might argue that this shows that government can relax: fewer gamblers, spending less money. Affordability is not a problem.

Others might argue the opposite: it could lead to operators concentrating more on higher spending customers, precisely that cohort which campaigners argue has the most risk of harm. Affordability is a critical problem.

So what does the gambling industry think?

Waiting for instruction

As was noted by Tom Banks, head of corporate affairs for the UK and global at Kindred, during a panel session at SBC Summit in Barcelona, in the absence of clarity on what measures might be part of any White Paper, many operators within the sector “have taken steps anyway”.

But that same panel also highlighted how much the industry is still flying blind when it comes to the crucial issue of affordability. As Sophie Platts, head of safer gambling and external affairs at Entain, put it “the balance we are trying to strike is to get enough information to ensure someone is comfortable with their levels of spend but we don’t want to introduce a lot of friction”.

Since the summer the working assumption has been of detailed considerations of financial positions being made at £1,000 over a 24-hour period and £2,000 within 90 days.

But that is only a working assumption and the ongoing lack of clarity clearly leaves the market wide open to bad actors to take advantage.

It should be clear to policymakers that the current situation is absolutely the worst of all worlds. Decisions that need to be made are being delayed, definitions around such important areas as affordability are yet to be set and the broad objectives of government policy appear to be all at sea.

This is why no decision is, in itself, a decision: industry leaders fear being caught between the profit motive and social responsibility.

2. A ‘Tottenham Report’ article by Hannah Gannagé-Stewart,entitled ‘The slow march of regulatory change’ (also published on 28 September) includes additional comment on David’s panel session, stating as follows:

The “UK Re-Wired – UK Gambling Act 2005 under the Spotlight” session was distinctly more downbeat, with UK-licensed operators all but pleading for clarity over what is now expected of them after a two-year review amounted to no solid new recommendations. 

Several thematic benchmarks have leaked from reporting of the review over the last couple of years, affordability measures and work to develop the single-customer view being a couple of them.  

It’s clear that licensees have taken steps to pre-empt these being part of the picture going forward. Entain Head of Safer Gambling and External Affairs Sophie Platts described a project in which the operator is piloting technology aimed at creating a single-customer view, while others grapple with how to measure affordability and its true relationship to harm. 

However, there is no clarification from the either the government or the GC as to the measures by which they will judge this or even how it’s defined. It was unequivocal on the “UK Re-Wired” panel that clarity was needed. 

It was also clear that access to robust customer data would make installing protections much easier and more reliable. At present, data-protection rules inhibit the level of data that can be collected, while asking customers to supply data themselves has been proven not to work. As such, being sure what individual punters can or can’t afford is very difficult. 

“Giving us more access to that data to be able to allow us to blend some of the really good behavioural risk profiling that we’re able to do already with some rich data in terms of finance, that’s the key”, said Kindred UK Head of Corporate Affairs Tom Banks. “When we’ve only got a little bit of the financial picture in terms of some of that data, it’s difficult for us not to create those friction points in the journey.” 

And it’s those friction points that risk driving players away, to unlicensed platforms where there is no requirement to provide such data.  

As the industry evolves, those alternatives are becoming more diverse. Consumers no longer have a choice between, simply, a licensed or unlicensed sportsbook. There are now crypto and metaverse casinos and the alternatives are growing rapidly outside of the long-established regulatory regimes of Europe.  

It is these evolving technologies that any review of regulation should have been taking into account, but to date, recognition of the myriad changes to the industry since 2005 remain elusive.