Working Group To Trial Affordability, Says UK Commission

September 18, 2023
The UK Gambling Commission expects to form a working group to trial financial risk checks and is questioning plans to require gamblers to provide their job title for affordability assessments.

The UK Gambling Commission expects to form a working group to trial financial risk checks and is questioning plans to require gamblers to provide their job title for affordability assessments.

The gambling regulator is in the middle of the first tranche of its white paper consultations, with the next round expected around the end of November 2023.

Commission executive director Tim Miller said that after assessing responses and evidence, some areas it will look at include “the real value of including job titles as part of financial risk checks", which was included as part of the consultation proposals.

Speaking on the “UK White Paper: Defining the Future” webinar hosted by Vixio GamblingCompliance on Friday (September 15), Miller also said that the commission will look at “the practical applications of the cross-selling requirements we are consulting on when it comes to land-based and there may need to be some flexibility in how they are applied there".

Feedback will also “likely” see the formation of an expert working group that the commission is “looking to kick off shortly" that will look specifically at how to “operationalise” financial risk checks “in a way to make sure they are effective and work well”.

“As part of this, the commission will look at exploring the possibility of piloting some of these changes before they come into force. We recognise particularly when you are reliant on technology and third parties like credit reference agencies that trialling these things first and ironing out any issues may be helpful.”

Miller predicts a “bumpy road ahead” but is “confident that with operators we can find a route through to deliver policy objectives to be effective and frictionless”.

Questioned about what “frictionless” means to the Gambling Commission, Miller said it is about “trying to ensure it doesn't put the burden on consumers to provide information”.

Sarah Fox, the deputy director of strategy, governance and performance at the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS), said she sees frictionless “as being nothing that puts up an obvious barrier in the way” or “nothing beyond the normal way of working as a consumer in an online space”.

The possibility of having operators ask consumers to provide their job title to help with these checks appears to be unlikely, as Miller said this is an “area that will be looked back at” after feedback from operators showed they do not currently routinely ask for this information.

Dan Waugh, a partner at Regulus Partners, said “the best news I've heard is that this will be subject to a trial and pilot”, adding that “large-scale interventions affecting large amounts of consumers should be piloted”.

However, Bahar Alaeddini, a partner at law firm Harris Hagan, explained that “the challenge remains the implementation of the government’s objective policy”, adding that there is a “worrying disconnect between policy and practice”.

“The practical reality in the industry is a significant drop-off rate after asking for consent for credit reference agency, manual checks, or open banking,” Alaeddini said. 

She also has “serious concerns” about proposals for changes to regulatory panels, in particular, the “frightening” possibility of adjudicators with just five years of legal experience during a period when the commission is “escalating fines”.

“My view is this proposed change suggests the future is not bright because the regulatory panel is an important opportunity to challenge a decision. It is sometimes the only avenue of recourse when the commission is going against you. I acknowledge that it is a small and restricted avenue of recourse but it is an important one that shouldn’t be further eroded,” Alaeddini said.

Miller responded by saying that many of the current commissioners have no legal experience and that the consultation will assess the responses and evidence it receives before making a final decision.

When it comes to the next steps for consultations, the DCMS is preparing to launch one on the proposed statutory levy “hopefully in the next few weeks”, according to Fox, which will cover the proposed formula for payments as well as its governance and logistics.

“We do need to bring in quite a constrained system in that we don’t have primary legislation to change the system, don't have new bodies to set up, don't have lots of resources to put to this. It is really about how do we turn the voluntary system on a statutory footing to start with and is there room for broader reforms in the future,” Fox said.


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