Affordability Checks Only Mandatory Once Truly 'Frictionless', Vows Minister

September 7, 2023
The UK gambling minister has said that planned affordability checks will not be enforced industry-wide until the government is confident that they are truly frictionless for almost all gamblers.

The UK gambling minister has said that planned affordability checks will not be enforced industry-wide until the government is confident that they are truly frictionless for almost all gamblers.

Giving evidence to a Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DMCS) committee on Tuesday (September 6), the minister for sport, gambling and civil society Stuart Andrew said that the government was committed to its objective that so-called financial risk checks should overwhelmingly take place without having an impact on customers.

“We are working with agencies across the board to ensure that these checks are frictionless,” he said.

“But I want to be really clear that we want to be sure that this system works. We will, if necessary, pilot this to make sure that it’s working and when we are confident that it’s delivered the frictionless checks that we have envisaged, only then will we look at rolling it out.”

Andrew’s comments cast doubt on when operators in the UK will be expected to meet the new standards.

The responsibility for defining the rules sits with the Gambling Commission, which is currently consulting on the details.

The regulator has proposed that customers experiencing a £125 net loss within a rolling 30-day period or £500 within a rolling 365-day period should be checked to see if they are subject to bankruptcy orders or have a history of unpaid debts.

The commission estimates this would only affect around 20 percent of customers.

Under the proposals, more thorough checks would take place where losses are greater than £1,000 within a rolling 24 hours or £2,000 within 90 days. The commission has also suggested that the triggers for enhanced assessments should be lower for those aged 18 to 24.

However, the government has also insisted that these checks will still be largely “frictionless”.

Among the wave of consultations launched this summer on the white paper proposals, the review of financial risk checks looks certain to be the most controversial.

Speaking earlier to the same DCMS committee, Gambling Commission chief executive Andrew Rhodes revealed that the vast majority of responses received so far for its many ongoing consultations are aimed at the affordability enquiry.

Rhodes described it as “the most challenging part of what we’re doing at the moment” and said he expected even more detailed submissions, including several from the UK’s largest operators, to be delivered towards the end of the consultation period in mid-October.

Commission executive director Tim Miller told the DCMS committee that the regulator envisaged information such as postcodes to be included in some checks. 

Discovering that an individual lives in a “deprived” area would be a data point that operators should take into consideration when assessing if their customers can afford their gambling, he said.

Personal details such as job titles could also be factored in, Miller added.

Commission deputy chief executive Sarah Miller told the committee that the regulator has had “the outcome we want in our rulebook since 2015”, to ensure that gambling operators are confident their customers are not placing themselves at risk of financial harm.

Rhodes also noted that a number of operators already perform some form of financial checks on customers. The new rules, said Stuart Andrew, “seek to bring about a uniform approach among operators”.

Still, the timeline for these new standards remains unclear. 

Rhodes spoke of honouring the urgency called for by culture secretary Lucy Frazer in announcing the white paper, but said “we can’t simply have the illusion of a consultation” and told the DMCS committee he could not say exactly when rules would be implemented.

Join our upcoming webinar, “UK White Paper: Defining the Future”, where Vixio will bring together leading experts with the key decision-makers behind the consultations to discuss the impending new era of UK gambling regulation.

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