UK Gambling Commission Hits Back Over Affordability 'Myths'

September 8, 2023
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With still six weeks to go before its consultation on financial risk checks draws to a close, the UK Gambling Commission has intervened to dispel various “myths” it says are recurring in the conversation around affordability.
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With still six weeks to go before its consultation on financial risk checks draws to a close, the UK Gambling Commission has intervened to dispel various “myths” it says are recurring in the conversation around affordability.

Speaking at a Digital, Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS) committee evidence session earlier this week, commission chief executive Andrew Rhodes revealed that, of the several open consultations on white paper policies currently running, the overwhelming majority of submissions relate to financial risk checks, also known as affordability.

In a blog post published on Thursday (September 7), Rhodes complained that a “significant amount of misinformation” has been circulating in the press and on social media.

In particular, Rhodes was attempting to combat the perception that a significant number of customers will be inconvenienced by the new checks, once operators are required to carry them out.

The commission claims that 97.3 percent of customers will not even know checks are being performed.

The regulator also estimates that only 20 percent of accounts will be subject to any checks and that most of these will occur in the background.

An estimated 3 percent of accounts will undergo what the commission is calling financial risk assessments, which are more detailed. But at least 80 percent of these will be carried out through credit reference agencies and will “not interrupt the customer journey unless concerns are raised”.

Those concerns will often be addressed through open banking checks, which do require the customer’s consent, Rhodes said.

“So our estimate is that at most just 0.3 percent of account holders would ever be asked to directly provide the additional financial information that operators are already requiring of some consumers,” he said.

Also speaking before the DCMS committee earlier this week, gambling minister Stuart Andrew promised that operators would not be required to obey the new rules until the government is confident they are predominantly “frictionless”.

Rhodes repeated that pledge, saying: “We wouldn't mandate operators to implement checks at levels such as those proposed in the consultation until we were sure that they can be delivered frictionlessly for the vast majority of customers who would be checked.”

The commission's chief executive also addressed complaints that the new rules will push players to the black market.

“We will never accept the argument that because an illegal online option exists, this should mean that the regulated gambling sector should have lower, less fair, or less safe standards,” he said, adding that the regulator has asked for more powers to combat offshore gambling operators.

Speaking at the DCMS committee meeting, Rhodes said he thought the risk from the black market was “overstated”.

He said if he hears complaints of players leaving the regulated UK market, he asks where they will gamble. “I’ve not once been given the name of an operator or a location or anything I can act upon and I have consistently asked that question,” he told MPs.

The financial risk check consultation remains open until October 18.

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