- The UKGC enforces restrictions on free play games
- Casinos must discontinue partnering with affiliates that don’t verify age
- B2B suppliers not affected in the move
The UKGC has warned online casinos to restrict the access of users to their affiliates that still offer free play games without the proper age verification.
The UKGC Call for Final Restriction on Free Play Games
The UK Gambling Commission (UKGC) has been shifting rules and regulations concerning players safety. Earlier this year, the UK watchdog introduced changes to its policies focused on consumer protection.
In a publication dated February 7, 2019, the UKGC outlined a general guideline for making the UK a fairer and safer place for players who gamble. While the move was launched independently, it was part of a broader timeline that has introduced multiple changes to the UK gambling landscape.
First, the discussion surrounding the Fixed-Betting Odds Terminals or FOBTs was settled, reducing the maximum allowable stake at £2 from previously £100. Meanwhile, a decision had been reached, increasing the remote gambling levy to over 20%.
Now, the UKGC is revisiting its plans to introduce better age verification controls. The UKGC will demand from operators to apply these changes themselves while the regulator will make sure that the measures are enforced.
As per the new Commission’s License Conditions and Codes of Practice (LCCP) that were voted in on May 7, operators may only allow access to gaming products in any form after the casinos have verified that players are over the legal age of 18. This includes the free play mode of all products listed in the portfolio.
Handling the Affiliate Business
The UK Gambling Commission is not going to spare operators anything, including third-party affiliation insofar as free play gaming is concerned.
According to the regulator and the issued Social Responsibility Code provision 1.1.2., operators will now be directly responsible for whether affiliates offer free play to underage gamblers without having bothered to confirm their age. Here is an except that comments on this development, first reported by iGaming Business:
“[Operators must] conduct themselves in so far as they carry out activities on behalf of the licensee as if they were bound by the same license conditions and subject to the same codes of practice as the licensee”.
If an operator purposefully and knowingly accepts traffic from third-party affiliate websites which have extended free play games to underage gamers, that operator bears the full responsibility. According to the UKGC, all websites should take immediate steps to limit access of underage gamers to free play products.
An affiliate that refuses to disable the feature would need to be dropped from the affiliate program of any UK-facing and licensed operator.
The Commission still allows people to take screenshots and make video reviews of such games and allows affiliates to review and advertise. Plus, actual B2B suppliers can still run the demo versions on their websites and the Commission will be taking no steps to restrict that.
The decision to target free play products doesn’t come lightly, but regulators have had their concerns regarding the demo versions extended by affiliate business for a long while. The Commission has cited not only fears about addiction, but also explained that products of any gambling nature should come with age verification.