UK Regulator Consults On Curbing Bonus Wagering Requirements

November 30, 2023
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The UK’s Gambling Commission has released a second set of consultations on proposed gambling licensing changes, including significant proposals to curb wagering requirements for bonuses and restrict how operators cross-sell players to different gambling products.
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The UK’s Gambling Commission has released a second set of consultations on proposed gambling licensing changes, including significant proposals to curb wagering requirements for bonuses and restrict how operators cross-sell players to different gambling products.

The proposals, released on Wednesday (November 29), are open for comments through to February 21, 2024 and are linked to the government’s white paper on gambling policy, which was released in April.

One proposal would ban wagering requirements from all bonus offers, or cap them at one, five or ten wagers.

Another would prevent licensees from offering incentives to more than one type of gambling, that is, mixing free sports bets and free slots spins in the same promotion.

The aim is to keep players from becoming confused or harmed by exposure to higher-risk kinds of gambling.

The commission is also asking for views on cross-operator deposit limits, without offering a firm proposal on such limits.

On the wagering requirements, the commission gives the example of a £10 bonus that requires the player to wager 50 times, or £500, within a specified time period, such as 14 days, before winnings can be withdrawn.

It said the goal of the proposed requirements is to balance freedom of choice with the need to limit the risk of serious harm.

The proposal to ban mixing of product types within promotional offers has a goal of “not to prevent licensees from marketing different products to new and existing customers, but to ensure that incentives are constructed in a manner that means consumers are not confused by complex offers, which could lead to excessive or harmful gambling”, the commission wrote.

Melanie Ellis of Northridge Law said she believes the most concerning proposal is the one on wagering requirements, as it will hinder operators’ efforts to curb bonus abuse.

Bonus abuse is often coupled with fraudulent activity, such as identity theft and use of multiple accounts, so it may not be compatible with licensing objectives, she said.

Licensing objectives include keeping gambling from becoming a source of crime or disorder.

Although she supports efforts to make wagering requirements clear and explicit, banning or severely limiting such requirements may mean operators will not be able to offer free bets, therefore driving players to the black market, Ellis said.

“I would encourage operators to provide details to the commission of the reasons why they use wagering requirements on certain offers and the potential impact of a ban or restriction,” she said.

Many operators have already made their bonus offers less complicated, and such offers are often a source of tension, if players feel they have been cheated out of winnings trying to satisfy the terms of the promotion, said Richard Williams of Keystone Law.

But operators may just be trying to prevent bonus abuse, with new registrations just withdrawing winnings and playing elsewhere, he said.

“I am not sure this will have a great impact on operators if there is a level playing field,” he said. “Operators will have to think harder about giving away bonus funds if there are no wagering restrictions. Bonus offers therefore may be reduced.”

John Hagan of Harris Hagan law firm wondered if the commission’s floating of the idea of player deposit limits applied to all customer accounts.

“However embryonic the thinking, the prospect of single deposit limits being applied by customers across operators introduces vast operational challenges, has potentially enormous financial implications for gambling operators and is sure to be a key area of focus in industry responses,” he said.

Other consultations include on transparency of protection of player funds and a proposal to make reporting of regulatory returns quarterly rather than annually.

Separately, the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS) is still consulting on the proposals for a statutory levy to fund research, prevention and treatment, in a survey that closes on December 14.

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