UK gambling regulator consulting on customer affordability checks


The UK’s gambling regulator is seeking public input on how to ensure that its online licensees adequately protect consumers from potential gambling harm, including proper checks to ensure that customers can afford to gamble.

On Tuesday, the UK Gambling Commission (UKGC) opened a consultation on its remote gambling licensees’ customer interactions. The UKGC said operators “already have the capability of identifying customers who may be harmed by gambling” but the regulator believes the industry “has not used this capability sufficiently to reduce harms.”

The UKGC claims too many licensees have “set thresholds for interaction too high,” in some cases not intervening until “tens of thousands of pounds” have been deposited and/or wagered. The UKGC is proposing new Social Responsibility Code requirements for licensing and a new “customer interaction manual” to replace the existing customer interaction guidance document.

UKGC exec director Tim Miller said many online licensees were “not taking the appropriate action or acting quickly enough when they do identify risks of potential harm.” Miller claimed that the consultation was intended to ensure the regulator struck “the right balance” between consumer freedom and consumer protection.

The consultation will run through January 12, 2021, after which the UKGC will conduct a “short supplementary consultation” to tweak its findings. The entire process will last no longer than 14 weeks.

The UKGC says it’s already “kickstarted our engagement” through discussions with consumers, operators, individuals with ‘lived experience’ and other regulators such as the Financial Conduct Authority.

The consultation was opened just days after the regulator spanked three online licensees for insufficient social responsibility, anti-money laundering and source of funds practices. The UKGC said all operators need to “learn the lessons” of these trips to the woodshed rather than rely on the regulator to herd them back into line when they stray off the straight and narrow.   

The consultation comes as the UK government is reportedly preparing to launch its long-awaited review of the 2005 Gambling Act. The review is being egged on by the usual suspects in the UK media, who refuse to accept statistics showing there’d been no great surge in gambling activity during this spring’s pandemic lockdown.

The Telegraph reported Tuesday that the UKGC was mulling a monthly cap on gambling losses, and the “lowest possible threshold is likely to be at least £100 loss per calendar month.” The UKGC reportedly based this figure on data showing that more than half the UK population had discretionary income of less than £250 per month.