UK Gambling Minister Signals Upcoming Affordability Checks

Customer affordability checks are coming for UK gambling operators but not at the proposed £100 ($131) level, the Minister for Tech and the Digital Economy Chris Philp said.

Speaking at the “Collaboration in the Prevention of Gambling Harm” conference organized by GambleAware, Philp threw light upon some of the upcoming changes as part of the review of the Gambling Act 2005. The review constitutes one of the two priorities he was appointed a minister for in September. He is tasked with making sure that the public has the right protection for the digital age.

Affordability Checks

Outlining that gambling harm “cannot be tackled effectively by working in isolation,” the minister placed the focus on prevention rather than treatment, stressing the role of operators in the process of detecting and preventing people from developing gambling addictions.

As unaffordable losses are clear signs of “out of control gambling that is causing harm,” Philp said “affordability checks need to be proportionate” and sided with the Commission that the proposed £100 ($131) level is “unwelcome, disruptive and disproportionate to the risks.”

“But there is a level that is appropriate.”

Chris Philp, Minister for Tech and the Digital Economy

Stressing on the importance to harness data to ensure the right checks are introduced as part of a robust unaffordable online gambling prevention system that could have a “transformative impact,” the minister noted the government is considering gambling-related harm as a public health issue and views gambling regulation as an “essential objective.”

“It’s our duty in government and more widely to prevent people from being led down a path to a dark destination.”

Chris Philp, Minister for Tech and the Digital Economy

Single Customer View

Outlining that individual operator efforts to prevent harm are undermined as any gambler can simply switch to another operator, Philp set “shoring up our systems to prevent this” as a priority for the government and the industry, implying the introduction of a single customer view (SCV) is inevitable.

Pointing to the online self-exclusion scheme GAMSTOP as an example of industry-wide data sharing, the minister highlighted checks should “supplement rather than supersede all the existing requirements on operators” and urged the industry to “pick up the gauntlet and work closely with both regulators to develop a system that works.”

Expanding Gambling Commission’s Power

Turning his focus to the regulator’s role, the minister outlined the government and the Commission would continue their collaboration on affordability until the publishing of the White Paper in the coming months.

As for the Commission, it needs “powers to regulate the enormous and innovative gambling industry,” Philp outlined, including capabilities to “analyze bulk account-level data” to make sure operators do “what they are supposed to under their license conditions.”

While close work with new chair and CEO as well as the Gambling Act Review will ensure the Commission has “all the tools” needed to uphold its licensing objectives, the minister believes that the Commission should “excel in holding the industry to account” on a day to day basis, pointing that the upcoming White Paper will provide the details how the regulator’s enforcement powers will increase.

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