Financial Risk Checks Could 'Disappear' Over Complications, Says Lawyer

May 13, 2024
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A leading UK gambling lawyer has warned that financial risk assessments may prove so intrinsically full of friction that they are allowed to “quietly disappear”.
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A leading UK gambling lawyer has warned that financial risk assessments may prove so intrinsically full of friction that they are allowed to “quietly disappear”.

Since the publication of the Gambling Commission’s response to one of its landmark white paper consultations earlier this month, the gambling industry and its stakeholders have been poring over the details, not least when it comes to affordability.

So-called financial vulnerability checks will be going ahead from August 30 this year at net deposit thresholds of £500 per month, before falling to £150 per month from February 28 next year.

However, the more intensive and controversial financial risk assessments for higher spending customers will only be carried out in a “non-live” test environment, with no deadline on when the trial will be complete or information on what spending thresholds are being used to trigger checks.

Timed to coincide with the announcement, trade group the Betting and Gaming Council (BGC) released an industry code for affordability interactions, which it said had been approved by the Gambling Commission, but these will only trigger after a net deposit of more than £5,000 in a rolling month or £25,000 in a rolling year.

“The more I think about the levels set in the BGC code, the more unbelievable I find it, considering the levels talked about in the white paper and imposed through enforcement action by the Gambling Commission,” said Elizabeth Dunn, a partner at Bird & Bird law firm in London.

“If I were an operator I’d be really nervous about relying on the BGC code,” she said.

“I just can’t see the Gambling Commission being OK with operators taking no action between the level of the financial vulnerability check and the levels set out in the BGC Code, which makes the code somewhat redundant.”

Both the UK government and gambling regulator have frequently pledged that the more intensive types of checks currently being trialled will not be rolled out until they are “frictionless” for the vast majority of customers.

But Dunn believes there is a real risk that this level of low friction will prove unachievable.

“It’s good that they’re doing the pilot, but potentially if this ends up being too difficult it might quietly go away,” she said.

“That would leave the commission enforcing affordability through the back door once again.”

Dunn also has doubts about the feasibility of a gambling ombudsman, which was promised in the white paper.

She pointed to the legal challenges in establishing a body to settle consumer complaints and predicted that most complaints would centre around alleged responsible gambling failures by operators.

“The industry, the commission and the government already cannot agree on what an operator’s social responsibility obligations should really look like, we only have to look at the implementation of the financial risk checks to see that, so I can’t see how we can put this on an ombudsman at this stage and I would not want to be making the decision on the majority of these cases, they are complex.”

“I think it is a shame that there’s nowhere for customers with genuine complaints to go currently,” she said, but “I don’t see it happening any time soon”.

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