UKGC Produces New Guidelines for Operators During Covid-19 Crisis
by Glenn Baird - May 13, 2020
The UK Gambling Commission published a new set of guidelines yesterday, designed to ensure that operators in the country are conducting their business in a socially responsible manner during the outbreak of Covid-19.
The regulator admits that operators need to be protecting their consumers following the publication of evidence suggesting that problem gamblers could be more at risk during these trying times.
The evidence comprises a set of figures compiled by the gambling industry and YouGov that details a reduction in the number of people gambling, including the number of people gambling for the first time. The evidence does not conclusively detail an increasing in problem gambling but it does indicate that there has been a rise in the number of people playing slots, poker, casino gaming and virtual sports.
Whilst the majority of those surveyed indicate they have not increased the amount of time or money that they spend gambling, the same cannot be said about engaged gamblers, 64% of which have admitted to an spending more on a particular form of gambling, including the National Lottery.
The following social responsibility measures should be in place, as of now, for all UK online gambling operators:
Interactions with customers must be conducted in a manner that “minimises the risk of customers experiencing harms associated with gambling.”
This should include the identification of customers who could be deemed at-risk, interacting with those customers and ensuring that those interactions are conducted in a manner that shows awareness of that customer’s needs.
The following measures should be put in place to ensure that customer’s needs are being met:
A constant review of the triggers that suggest vulnerability should be in play. Operators should be aware of increased gambling time and changing financial situations.
Sustained play of over 1 hour should now be considered a trigger of vulnerability, if it is not already and those customers should be interacted with.
New customers should have modified threshold triggers put into place, until a fuller picture of that customer has been formed.
Continual monitoring should be in place to identify changing patterns of play so that operators can identify patterns of play, spend or behaviours have changed in recent weeks.
Regular affordability checks should be conducted on existing customers and if a concern is raised that customer should have their access blocked or limited until further checks have been conducted that suggest those blocks or limits can be lifted. If those checks suggest the customer is at risk then those blocks or limits should remain in place.
“Prevent reverse withdrawal options for customers until further notice.”
Any customers displaying vulnerable behaviours should not be offered any deals or bonuses.
Gambling Commission chief executive Neil McArthur said:
“Operators must use the data they hold to protect their customers and now, more than ever, it’s vital that online operators really know their customers by monitoring how long they are playing for and understanding how financial uncertainty is impacting them and what they can afford to gamble with. To ensure operators do that, we are strengthening our guidance and expect operators to take account of that to prevent bonus offers or inducements being offered to customers who are showing any sign of harm.‘’
Adding, ‘’We will continue to monitor and publish the data that we are collecting and we will take further measures if required. We are monitoring online operators closely and if we see irresponsible behaviour we will step in immediately, suspending licences if we need to.”
Minister for Sports, Tourism and Heritage Nigel Huddleston said:
“It is vital that people are protected from the threat of gambling related harm and I welcome these latest steps from the Gambling Commission.
“We will continue to monitor the situation closely and will not hesitate to take further action if required.”