UK Industry Wonders If 'Single Customer View' May Die With New Government

September 28, 2022
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UK-focused gambling operators await a white paper that could provide guidance on whether they need to adopt enhanced player protection measures such as affordability checks, but worry that in the meantime a “zealous” Gambling Commission might overstep the mark with its single customer view.

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UK-focused gambling operators await a white paper that could provide guidance on whether they need to adopt enhanced player protection measures such as affordability checks, but worry that in the meantime a “zealous” Gambling Commission might overstep the mark with its single customer view.

The UK government’s review of the 2005 Gambling Act was announced nearly two years ago, and could possibly never come, given a change in government that has meant a complete overhaul of ministers even as the ruling Conservative Party remained in power.

Single customer view is a concept floated by the Gambling Commission that would see the industry develop a cross-operator view of player behaviour to help prevent gambling harm.

The Betting and Gaming Council (BGC), the main UK lobbying group, is participating in a trial of whether such a project could comply with the General Data Protection Regulation, run by GAMSTOP, which also organises the UK’s self-exclusion programme.

The BGC is happy to participate in the test, but some might wonder whether it could be seen as an example of “zealousness” on the part of regulators, and would better be a political than a regulatory decision, said Wes Himes, BGC executive director for standards and innovation.

Industry executives claim affordability checks, already in place for the biggest UK operators, are driving players to offshore operators and the single customer view would feel similarly intrusive to players.

“You have to make the political decision how much you want to interfere with their lives,” he said.

Imagine a pub crawl — if a customer at the very last pub falls over from excess drinking, that publican is obviously responsible for their safety, Himes said.

“But what if you said ‘only one drink’ [at each pub]?” he asked.

Germany is already constructing what is effectively a mandatory “single customer view”, via a mechanism called LUGAS, which is meant to ensure players only gamble with one operator at a time and spend no more than €1,000 per month.

The UK media, such as the Daily Mail, paints the gambling industry as “predatory”, said Dan Waugh of Regulus Partners.

The industry may have brought on some of its problems as, in the past, it was guilty of “catastrophically bad customer service”, which focused on “yield not satisfaction” and player “acquisition not retention”, he said.

But he questioned whether there is evidence of significant “disordered gambling” across multiple accounts.

And the industry needs clarity about what constitutes “player harm”.

If, as has been suggested, “no customer can experience regret”, that is a problem, as in gambling “regret is baked in”, Waugh said.

If regret becomes a marker of harm, “we may as well just pack up and go home”, he said.

Himes and Waugh were speaking at the International Masters of Gaming Law conference in London earlier this month.

Himes, however, wondered whether the long-awaited gambling review would ever come off, given the change in government this month.

“We now have a Liz Truss government, which is much more libertarian than the previous government,” he said. “What does that mean for the white paper?”

Later, Waugh’s Regulus Partners wrote that it hopes that media reports that the white paper could be scrapped due to the sagging economy, Ukraine war and that libertarian nature are incorrect.

Changes advanced by the Gambling Commission or the Department of Health and Social Care are unlikely to be as palatable as those coming from the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport, the group said.

“We consider it unlikely that the government will abandon its review entirely — although it may well be deprioritised,” Regulus Partners said.

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