Single Customer View' Desirable, Not Easy, UK Regulator Says

June 1, 2023
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The idea of a centralised database of gambling data that would allow players to be tracked for gambling addiction concerns across all licensed operators is appealing, but challenging to accomplish, the UK’s Gambling Commission chief executive has said.

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The idea of a centralised database of gambling data that would allow players to be tracked for gambling addiction concerns across all licensed operators is appealing, but challenging to accomplish, the UK’s Gambling Commission chief executive has said.

The concept has been termed the “single customer view”, meaning a picture of a player’s habits across all licensed operators centred on addressing gambling harm or affordability issues.

To illustrate potential use of a central database, CEO Andrew Rhodes made an analogy to pubs.

A customer who has had too much to drink at one bar presumably could be readily stopped at the next, he said.

But, as things stand, for the player who has been cut off at one gambling site moving to the next one, “it would be like presenting at the next one clean and sober”, despite their evident gambling problems, he said.

In spite of the potential benefits, the Gambling Commission is far from being able to implement such a system, Rhodes said.

“UKGC would need to be quite a different body to be able to manage that kind of central database,” he said.

Rhodes was speaking at last week’s CasinoBeats Summit 2023 in Malta, at which he also addressed affordability issues, timing of consultations and the black market.

A central database raises privacy and data protection issues. But according to the recently released UK white paper, the Information Commissioner’s Office has said that operators can share customer protection data, in compliance with existing data protection rules.

Currently there is an ongoing trial programme, coordinated by UK self-exclusion agency GAMSTOP, focusing on high-risk players.

Although the government and the regulator plan to review the results of the trial, there may be no action anytime soon.

“Given the privacy implications for the majority who gamble with no ill effect, we do not think the creation of such a system including a national database of all gamblers (even if anonymised) is justified at this time,” the white paper said.

Both Germany and Spain are approaching the challenge of building central data repositories, with the German regulator grappling with the mechanics of assembling such a database, while in Spain it is still a proposal.

Rhodes also addressed the call for an ombudsman to address consumer complaints.

The current system, using alternative dispute resolution bodies, has limits, and many people think the Gambling Commission has the power to address individual complaints, but it does not, Rhodes said.

The commission can investigate consumer complaints, but it cannot adjudicate them and has no power to return money to victims.

Any financial penalties are currently handed to the government.

The white paper calls for the ombudsman to be initially voluntary, with legislation if needed.

The Gambling Commission had called for it to be statutory, and therefore presumably funded through government sources.

So does that mean under the white paper proposals the gambling industry would fund the ombudsman?

Rhodes did not answer directly, but said the commission “would have to be satisfied it’s independent”.

The white paper itself says the ombudsman should be “demonstrably independent from licensees and operationally independent from the commission”.

The ombudsman should be in place a year from conclusion of consultations, which should launch in Summer 2023, according to the white paper.

The body would “adjudicate complaints relating to social responsibility or gambling harm where an operator is not able to resolve these”, the white paper says.

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