Upcoming affordability checks for gaming operators in the UK are likely to hit the industry, especially the owner of Paddy Power, Flutter Entertainment, if the proposed limit of £100 per month is approved.
Having started a consultation period with all stakeholders and other interested parties in December last year, the Gambling Commission closed the period for gathering evidence February 9 and is now proposing strict measures to prevent gamblers from excessive gambling.
Pros and Cons
It is not about having affordability checks or not, but rather at what threshold the process of peeking into someone’s finances should initiate, Matt Zarb-Cousin, co-founder of Gamban, a developer of an app preventing gamblers from accessing betting websites argues.
“Operators are supposed to do them anyway, but they only do them where someone has lost tens of thousands.”Matt-Zarb-Cousin
Cousin, who claims 5% of British gamblers account for 60% of profits from online gambling, further dismissed the argument the proposal for affordability checks invades customer privacy, stating that “operators already hold lots of data” on their customers.
Biased or not, Cousin’s opinion clearly underestimates the impact of asking gambling companies to start collecting sensitive financial information and assess client’s spending at such a low level of monthly loss such as the proposed by the Gambling Commission £100 threshold.
Cousin continued by pointing out the key reason behind problem betting: online slot and casino games, as gaming companies cross-sell these games to bettors on horse racing and other sports. He went on to suggest that should companies provide sports betting and online gaming on separate platforms and websites, or at least use different digital wallets for the two verticals, there would be no need for such stringent affordability checks.
The controversial proposal from the commission raised serious concerns about the future of the horse racing industry and sparked heated debate that it would damage the business. The Horseracing Bettors Forum (HBF) sent a written statement to the Gambling Commission, warning that the proposed measure would dent the industry to the amount of £60 million in levy and income from media rights.
On behalf of the sports betting and online gaming operators, Flutter Entertainment would likely be affected most. The owner of Paddy Power, Betfair and Skybet used the media last week to argue for a three-step proposal.
Ian Proctor, chairman of the gambling group, explained that operators could establish and apply spending limits for customers with financial red flags at registration as a first step, then continuously monitor them through tools for safer gambling controls, and in the rare cases when the two steps fail to perform, the third step of a backstop on spending would operate as a fail-safe.