The UK Gambling Commission (GC) is starting a consultation with online gambling operators and consumers, looking for insights on how to better protect vulnerable customers from gambling related harms.
Gambling Harm Prevention at the Source
Arguing that remote gambling operators are already in a position to identify players who may be susceptible to gambling harm, yet do nothing to sufficiently reduce that harm, the GC announced it is opening up a consultation period starting from today, November 3, and running until January 12, 2021.
The GC is looking to implement stronger requirements for online gambling operators to help ensure they do more to identify vulnerable consumers and to interact with them at an early stage to improve effectiveness of gambling harm prevention.
The Commission is not satisfied with the continuous improvement of levels of customer interaction for gambling operators alone, as practice shows they do not set threshold for action, and consequently, not taking action or acting quickly enough when a customer at risk is identified.
The GC further notes that it has and will continue to take compliance and enforcement actions against operators who fail to meet the requirements for an appropriate customer interaction, but in order to raise the standards of risk prevention for customers, minimum standard levels need to be implemented industry-wide and consistently monitored by the operators. In other words, the industry should not rely on the commission to constantly correct improper behavior.
Thresholds for Affordability Assessments
The GC outlined gambling operators should act on information they have which suggests a client’s vulnerability, and as part of the stronger requirements, should conduct defined affordability assessments for customers at pre-set by the Commission thresholds.
The Commission is aware that a balance between consumer freedom and gambling harm protection is necessary and is turning to the industry for evidence and proposals on what levels the thresholds for actions should be set, what should the nature of the affordability assessments be and how operators should react to protect customers after such an assessment.
While pointing out the necessity for operators to understand when gambling beyond one’s means happens, in order to understand the harm stemming from such behavior, the GC is also looking to minimize unintended consequences, and how each stakeholder, regulator, industry and the financial sector, could help mitigate these risks.
The GC wants an open and public dialogue on the consultation it opens, particularly looking for insight from consumers on how operators should identify their vulnerability and unaffordable gambling, as well as the circumstances when they should act on behalf of consumers.
As part of the GC’s engagement with customers, the Commission is intending on releasing further material to facilitate sharing views from as broad range of consumers as possible.