UK Gambling Commission Sets Out New White Paper Rules

May 1, 2024
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​​​​​​​The UK’s Gambling Commission has announced a series of rule changes, including opt-in marketing of gambling products, a five-second minimum on most casino games and what it calls “light-touch financial vulnerability checks”.
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The UK’s Gambling Commission has announced a series of rule changes, including opt-in marketing of gambling products, a five-second minimum on most casino games and what it calls “light-touch financial vulnerability checks”.

The changes will take effect in four stages starting in August and will be in full effect by February 2025, the commission said today (May 1).

Licensees will need to obtain opt-in, not opt-out, permission from consumers on both choice of online gambling products and methods of communication, the regulator said in a press release.

The regulator said it will also conduct a six-month pilot programme of financial risk assessments, “aimed at preventing cases where customers were able to spend large amounts in short spaces of time without any checks resulting in significant gambling harm”.

It will refine the data-sharing process before the checks are rolled out in live situations, the commission said.

The announcement of planned changes comes just over a year since the introduction of the UK’s white paper, which outlined the government’s policies on gambling.

In an apparent concession to a flood of complaints from horseracing bettors, the commission said it will review results of the financial risk assessment pilot and decide whether permanent rules are needed, “but this will not be done until the data-sharing is frictionless for the vast majority of customers who are checked”.

But it also plans to introduce light-touch financial vulnerability checks, the regulator wrote.

The financial risk checks for online players will seek to determine through publicly available information whether gamblers are subject to bankruptcy orders or have a history of unpaid debts.

The checks will start initially on August 30 at a net deposit of £500 per month, then reduce to £150 a month from February 28, the regulator said.

The financial risk assessments are meant to “assess risk of harm of gambling in the context of the financial circumstances of the highest spending online accounts” and will start with a pilot programme that will not be done in a live environment, the commission said.

Also this morning, industry trade group the Betting and Gaming Council (BGC) has announced a new “Industry Code on Customer Checks”, which introduces new voluntary rules for assessing the financial health of operators’ highest spending customers.

The code sets rules around what operators should do when customer spend exceeds £5,000 in a single month or £25,000 in 12-month rolling period.

Only those spending more than £25,000 will need to supply documentation to prove they can afford their gambling, the BGC said.

“Today’s announcement of an interim code on customer checks is a major step forward, and will help ensure that we can continue to protect those at risk of gambling harm without penalising ordinary punters,” said culture secretary Lucy Frazer.

“Over recent months we have been listening carefully to the views of industry, horseracing, campaigners, charities and ordinary punters. We are committed to a balanced approach, which respects the personal freedom of the many millions of people who gamble without issue, while protecting people from the potentially destructive impact of gambling addiction,” she said.

Other changes announced by the Gambling Commission today include game design changes meant to reduce speed and intensity of play.

New rules will extend bans on autoplay or features which give the illusion of control such as “turbo” play or “slam stops”.

It will ban “false win” features that include celebrations of returns less than or equal to the player’s stake.  

Also banned are designs which facilitate simultaneous play of multiple forms of gambling, such as blackjack and roulette at the same time.

Spin speeds of less than five seconds are banned, with an exclusion for peer-to-peer poker.

These changes take effect on January 17, 2025, along with the consumer opt-in rules for gambling products and marketing channels, the regulator said.

From August 30, all gambling venues will need to check IDs of anyone who appears under the age of 25, rather than 21 as at present.

Andrew Rhodes, the commission’s chief executive, said the regulator has listened and responded to a range of views and “we have made changes while still ensuring that we deliver meaningful protections”. 

“We are also pleased to be taking forward a pilot of financial risk assessments and data collection, which together will ensure that we can make informed decisions about how these assessments can be implemented in a way that supports both consumer freedom and protections,” he said.  

“We have to get the balance right between protecting people from the potentially life-ruining effects of gambling-related harm and respecting the freedom of adults to engage in an activity that the vast majority do so without experiencing harm,” Rhodes said.

The full response to a series of consultations will be posted by the Gambling Commission later today.

The BGC said it was working with the commission on a second code to address when anti-money laundering checks should trigger requests for documentation.

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