UK online gambling operators are facing tough new rules for verifying the age of their customers and restrictions on demanding further identification before processing customer withdrawals.
On Thursday, the UK Gambling Commission (UKGC) released its new customer identity verification rules, which will take effect on May 7. The new requirements are part of the regulator’s three-year plan to ensure a ‘fairer and safer’ gambling environment for UK consumers.
The old rules allowed operators a 72-hour window in which to conduct age-verification checks. Operators must now ensure a new customer is of legal gambling age before allowing that customer to deposit funds into their account or make any bet, whether that bet is made using the customer’s own money or funds provided via a free bet or bonus.
The new age-verification rules similarly apply to the free-to-play gambling products on operators’ websites. The UKGC acknowledges that these products “are not technically gambling” but holds the view that there’s “no legitimate reason” why such products should be available to minors.
The new rules also tackle the occasionally shady process of online operators demanding significant identity checks only after a customer wants to withdraw winnings. The UKGC says 15% of the complaints it received from consumers were about this issue.
Operators will now have to verify name, address and date of birth of customers before allowing them to gamble, while any additional verification questions must be asked “promptly.” Customers must be informed about the type of identity documents or info that might be required, the circumstances under which this info might be required and the acceptable methods of supplying the operator with this info. Operators must also take “reasonable steps” to ensure the customer info they have on file remains accurate.
The UKGC says these new requirements will allow operators to better prevent potential gambling harm, in part because identities will now be cross-checked with not only operators’ individual self-exclusion registries but also with the data collected by the Gamstop multi-operator self-exclusion scheme.
Customers will further benefit because operators “cannot demand that customers submit ID as a condition of cashing out, if they could have asked for that information earlier.”
The UKGC is now planning a new consultation on how operators will be expected to interact with customers who display potential problem gambling behavior. UKGC CEO Neil McArthur added that the regulator would “keep using our powers to raise standards for consumers.”
The markets reacted with some restraint to Thursday’s news, as the shares of 888 Holdings, GVC Holdings, Paddy Power Betfair, Playtech and William Hill all shed around 1.5-3% of their value by the end of the day’s trading.