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The UK Gambling Commission inflicts stricter measures for consumer protection during lockdown

The UK Gambling Commission has issued a new set of safety rules for online operators, as new evidence shows some gamblers may be at risk during lockdown.


What the data shows 

The guidelines include the need for affordability checks, prevention of reverse withdrawals and restrictions on bonus offers. This follows the Commission publishing data showing the impact that the new virus is having on consumers and the gambling industry up to this point.

The data was collected through the gambling industry and YouGov surveys, indicating that during lockdown gambling participation is down overall. This is a result of land based venues being closed, as well as the sporting events being cancelled, with only a small number of people starting to gamble for the first time.

Evidence shows an increase in the use of certain gambling products such as online slots, poker, casino gaming and virtual sports. However, the majority of gamblers have not increased the time or money they have invested, while 64% of more avid gamblers disclosed that they have increased the time or money that they are spending on at least one online gambling activity including National Lottery products.

While overall session length has decreased, the data also suggests that there has been an increase in the number of sessions that are played for over an hour.


What the additional guidance includes

Online operators must now take account of the Commission’s new set of rules that was inflicted in light of the risks that some players may be exposed to while in lockdown: 

  • Prevent reverse withdrawal options for customers until further notice; 
  • Cease to offer bonuses or promotions to all customers who are displaying indicators of harm;
  • Interact with customers who have been playing for an hour in a single session of play;
  • Review thresholds and triggers for new customers to reflect the operator’s lack of knowledge of that individual’s play and spend patterns;
  • Conduct affordability assessments for individuals picked up by existing or new thresholds and triggers which indicate consumers experiencing harm - limiting or blocking further play until those checks have been concluded and supporting evidence obtained;
  • Implement processes that ensure the continual monitoring of their customer base – identifying patterns of play, spend or behaviours have changed in recent weeks.

Commenting on the new rules, 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.

Minister for Sports, Tourism and Heritage Nigel Huddleston commented as well: 


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.

Later this month, the Commission will be opening a consultation which will propose strengthened measures around ethical product design, including reverse withdrawals and VIP Inducements. 

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