UKGC CEO issues COVID-19 lockdown reminder to online gambling operators

The Gambling Commission has today (11 January 2020) published on its website the following reminder to UK-licensed online gambling operators:

Covid-19: Commission CEO reminder to online operators

As the nation moves into lockdown once again in response to the rising rates of Coronavirus, I wanted to take the opportunity to remind you of the need to ensure that you are protecting your customers during this difficult time.  

We know that the restrictions imposed in response to Covid-19 have had an impact on customer behaviour.  Our National Strategic Assessment set out further details about those changes and how that changed the risks to customers.  We have continued to gather monthly operator and consumer data and will shortly publish the data from November. 

No one should be in any doubt about how closely we are monitoring issues or our willingness to take further action if we deem that necessary. 

Extra operator vigilance is needed during this new national lockdown because: 

  • Most people will be spending more time at home and many people are likely to be feeling more isolated and vulnerable as a result of the length of the pandemic period, the new restrictions and further uncertainty about their personal or financial circumstances.
  • We know that some consumers, such as highly engaged gamblers who play a range of products, are likely to spend more time and money gambling and the fact that sport will continue during this lockdown will mean there are more opportunities for betting customers to gamble.
  • We know that some people may gamble for the first time.

We expect you to: 

  • Continue to follow the strengthened guidance issued during the first lockdown, taking close interest in data that shows consumers expanding their portfolio of games and spending more time or money than before.  
  • Interact directly where triggers are reached, as well as more generic email engagement.
  • Avoid any temptation to exploit the current situation for marketing purposes and be very cautious when seeking to cross-sell products.
  • Take particular care when on-boarding new customers and making decisions over affordability checks which reflect the environment we are in.

We will continue to:

  • Take steps to permanently strengthen regulatory requirements, encompassing changes to RTS and LCCP to protect consumers.
  • Monitor operators and consumer behaviour very closely and conduct our compliance assessments during this latest lockdown as we did last year.  

As well as gathering and publishing our own data, if you want to share your own analysis of impacts to the industry or share other information that may be relevant to our work you can talk to Ben Haden, Director of Research and Statistics, who is collating all of the information about how Covid-19 is affecting the industry at this time.   

Additionally, if you have information or concerns about the behaviour of an operator, our Confidential Intelligence Hotline is continuing to take calls or you can email the team. Guidance to support best practice can be found in our Annual Compliance and Enforcement report and you can also continue to contact your account manager in the normal way.  

The gambling industry and daily life as a whole continues to be impacted by the pandemic and whilst there is some light and hope ahead with the vaccine, I want to ensure operators are clear of our expectations. Since March we have all adapted to new ways of working and this new phase will be a challenge for us all. However, operators must now more than ever, continue to be vigilant to protect their customers. 

If you do have any additional questions, please do not hesitate to contact me directly.  

Yours sincerely, 

Neil

Neil McArthur Chief Executive

All operators are advised to read Frequently Asked Questions for gambling operators during Covid-19

Posted on 11 January 2021