UKGC announces forthcoming changes to Licence Condition 8.1 (display of licensed status)

Following a March 2020 consultation (on which we reported here), the Gambling Commission has today (30 July 2020) published a responses document entitled “Changes to licence condition 8.1 (display of licensed status)”.

Commenting on this, the Commission states as follows on its website:

In early 2020, we consulted on proposals to update licence condition 8.1 (display of licensed status) for gambling operators offering gambling products online.

Our consultation proposals wanted to make changes to licence condition 8.1.1 and 8.1.2 and to introduce a new licence condition (licence condition 8.1.3). These changes aimed to:

  • standardise the type of information that must be displayed on business-to-customer (B2C) and business-to-business (B2B) websites and mobile applications about an operator’s licensed status, and
  • extend the requirements to non-commercial societies, local authorities and external lottery managers offering access to lottery products online.

Our objective in making these changes is to improve visibility of a licensee’s licensed status for customers of online gambling products, supporting our work to keep gambling fair and safe.

Standardisation of the form of displayed licensed statuses will also enable us to better use data tools when we carry out compliance activity to check the licensed status of a gambling website or mobile application.   

We received 30 written responses to the consultation which ran for 12 weeks. The consultation response document summarises the responses received and explains our final position on each proposal.

Changes to the Licence Conditions and Codes of Practice (LCCP) because of this consultation will take effect on 31 October 2020.

They will affect all online B2C operators, remote B2B operators, non-commercial societies and local authorities holding society lotteries licences, and external lottery managers. Alongside changes to licence condition 8.1, we plan to produce guidance for operators on the format to be used for displaying licensed status.

Its stated position arising from responses to the consultation is as follows:

Our position

General

Overall, respondents supported our proposed changes to licence condition 8.1.

The changes will ensure that, for licensees offering gambling products or services remotely, a licensee’s licensed status is displayed in a standard form on relevant screens. The extension of the requirement to display a licensed status to cover non-commercial society lotteries and local authority lotteries will particularly benefit consumers of lottery products when interacting with these organisations. It will improve visibility of a licensee’s licensed status for these consumers, supporting our work to keep gambling fair and safe.

Standardisation of the form of displayed licensed statuses will also enable us to better use data tools when we carry out compliance activity to check the licensed status of a gambling website or mobile application. These revisions align with our ongoing work to redesign our public registers of licence holders.

We agree that the short-form version of a licensee’s licence number (i.e. a licensee’s account number) is more appropriate for display purposes than a full licence number. Account numbers remain constant, whereas licence numbers are incrementally changed when there is a variation in aspects of a licensee’s licence. Using an account number instead of licence number will reduce the burden on licensees to update their screens when such changes occur. We have therefore amended the wording in Licence conditions 8.1.1 (1(b)), 8.1.2 (1(a)(ii)) and 8.1.3 (1(b)) to reflect that we will require account numbers to be displayed instead of licence numbers.

However, we do not agree that just a statement and link would suffice, and we will require a licensee’s account number to be displayed alongside these. This will ensure that a licensee can be easily referenced by a consumer if the link is not working, for whatever reason. It will also enable us to use data tools, such as webscraping, more effectively. We have amended the wording in licence conditions 8.1.1 (2), 8.1.2 (2) and 8.1.3 (2) to reinforce this.

Overall, we do not consider that the proposed changes place any undue restrictions on screen design given the limited amount of space required to display the linked licence status and account number.

An up-to-date link to our public register of licence holders will be provided to each licensee by us. Should we update our website or service that hosts this link, we will send a new link to all affected licensees. We will not indemnify licensees against any errors on our part in the provision of the link, although we will take a pragmatic and fair approach in the event such an error occurs.

We agree that our requirement for the display of licensed status relates to screens from which consumers can access gambling facilities but we encourage its inclusion on ‘play screens’ (e.g. the screen of a slot game, or within a bingo lobby) where this is feasible, or for the licensed status to be easily accessible for consumers from these screens. Further guidance on the term “easily accessible” is provided within our Remote Technical Standards

During our Remote Technical Standards consultation in 2017 we issued guidance on interim arrangements for devices, such as mobile phones, where limited screen space made it difficult to display licensed status on every screen. We have reviewed these interim arrangements in view of the sharp increase in gambling on mobile devices. It is apparent from this consultation and the manner in which technology has evolved that previous considerations associated with restricted display devices no longer apply. With effect from the adoption of these amended conditions, we will require licensees to display their licenced status in the form and manner provided by us, that will apply to website and mobile application screens equally.

Licence condition 8.1.1 – remote B2C operators

We recognise that there are some circumstances where B2C licensees hold more than one remote licence. Our default position is that the display of licensed status on screens within a website or mobile application belonging to a licensee with multiple licences, should state all the licensee names and account numbers offered from that website or mobile application.

Licence condition 8.1.2 – remote B2B operators

For licence condition 8.1.2, we have considered the suggestion to mandate additional text which makes clear that games are not available for play on B2B websites. Our view is that the current wording is sufficient, and we do not see a need to unduly lengthen the statement we will require a licensee to display.

Licence condition 8.1.3 – non-commercial societies, local authorities and external lottery managers

Having reviewed the consultation responses, we do now consider that licence condition 8.1.3 should also apply to External Lottery Managers (ELMs). Responses indicate that this approach would make the requirement simpler for the lotteries sector to adopt. Where an ELM is involved in making arrangements for a lottery on behalf of a non-commercial society or local authority, we will require them to display their licensed status on screens they manage on behalf of a non- commercial society or local authority.

We will only require the ELM to display their own licensed status, which will be less burdensome and more practical than requiring them to display the licensed status of all the lotteries they make arrangement for.

We recognise that there are some circumstances where multiple non-commercial society or local authority lotteries licensed by us are operated under a single website or mobile application by a licensee. If the licensee is an ELM, we will require them to display their own licensed status (as detailed above). Where the single website or mobile application is not managed by an ELM, other arrangements for the display of licensed status will be needed. Our default position is that the display of licensed status on screens within a website or mobile application belonging to a licensee with multiple licences, should state all the licensee names and account numbers offered from that website or mobile application.

The suggestion that a charity website that links through to a society lottery website provided by an ELM should include a statement explaining what percentage of the lottery sales are received by the charity for spend on charitable purposes, is outside the scope of this consultation. See our Society Lottery Reforms consultation response for further information on this issue.

The display of licensed status is not required on screens from which lottery products cannot be accessed directly (e.g. charity or local authority homepages, or other screens which do not contain lottery-related content), or on those which offer lottery products by non-remote means (e.g. screens offering lottery products via post).

We have added the words “and mobile applications” to licence condition 8.1.3 (1) to clarify that the licence condition will apply to both websites and mobile applications. This ensures that the requirement for lotteries is consistent with the requirements for B2C remote licensees. Similarly, we have amended the wording “lottery ticket” to “lottery product” to improve the definition used.

The above constitutes an additional forthcoming LCCP change to others announced by the Commission today, on which we have reported separately here.