Customer Interactions Still Failing, Says UK Commission

September 8, 2021
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The Gambling Commission continues to see operators allowing consumers to gamble potentially harmful amounts with very limited or no customer interaction until a very late stage, a senior official has said.

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The Gambling Commission continues to see operators allowing consumers to gamble potentially harmful amounts with very limited or no customer interaction until a very late stage, a senior official has said.

Executive director Tim Miller’s keynote speech on Tuesday at KnowNow's conference on Social Responsibility for Gambling Operators covered the regulator’s work and expectations around its current priorities, such as customer interaction and affordability.

He also warned of persistent poor behaviour seen by the commission among some licensees.

“We are talking about significant binge gambling or clearly unaffordable levels of gambling without action being taken. Can anyone in this room seriously justify allowing a new customer to lose £10,000 within minutes without any checks or interaction?” he questioned.

These “issues” will be addressed in the regulator's customer interaction proposals, Miller said, promising the regulator would not permit operators to continue to place their commercial objectives ahead of customer protection.

The regulator’s “Update on Remote Customer Interaction" consultation and call for evidence, which covered the measures online operators require to identify and protect customers at risk of harm, received around 13,000 responses.

Miller said these responses have now been assessed, promising revised licence conditions and codes of practice (LCCP) requirements on customer interaction in the coming weeks.

A separate consultation on thresholds for identifying key financial risks that touches on significant losses in a very short time, significant losses over time and financial vulnerability will also be launched soon.

The Gambling Commission is mindful of the ongoing review of the Gambling Act and does not plan to consult on issues it believes should be covered by it.

This is likely to include controversial affordability rules proposed by the commission, which could require detailed source-of-funds checks for many players.

However, “the multiple failures to comply with our existing outcomes focussed rules has forced our hand into bringing forward more prescriptive requirements to ensure that those long-standing regulatory outcomes are delivered”, Miller warned.

He did acknowledge that the regulator has to address some of its own shortcomings still, such as how it uses data as a regulatory tool.

The Gambling Commission is desperate to have access to robust, comprehensive data, it says, but claims more funding is needed to manage the risks of regulating a rapidly changing industry.

Miller warned operators to use the remainder of this business year to ensure their data quality processes are robust and fit for purpose.

“In next year’s business plan we will set out a programme of target compliance and, if necessary, enforcement action around the quality and timeliness of the regulatory returns we receive,” he said.

Touching on crime in gambling, Miller made it clear that although the industry is right to flag the consumer risks of black market operators, it would not slow down the push to make regulated gambling safer.

“We won’t legitimise poor practice at home through fear of what might be happening elsewhere. Making gambling safer and keeping crime out of gambling are not mutually exclusive and we will continue to pursue both of those objectives rigorously,” he said.

The ongoing Gambling Act Review includes a focus on the powers and resources of the Gambling Commission to take enforcement action.

Miller added that some licensees’ money laundering and terrorist finance risk assessments, and policies, procedures and controls, continue to be "not fit for purpose”.

“Both online and on the high street we have seen notable cases this last year and this year’s Compliance and Enforcement Report will again detail what we expect from operators in this area,” Miller said.

Tim Miller oversees research and statistics, policy development, and the National Strategy for Reducing Gambling Harms for the gambling regulator.

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