The following is an update from the Gambling Commission
Earlier this year, we asked stakeholders about the steps remote operators should be required to take to identify and protect customers at risk of harm. This formed part of a long-running programme of work to make online gambling fairer and safer.
Our current requirements place a duty on remote operators to monitor gambling and take action where there is a risk of harm. We had identified in our casework that, while remote operators had the ability to interact with those being harmed, they were not always doing so or acting quickly enough.
We wanted to hear feedback about tougher rules to tackle this, such as requirements to take action when online operators know a customer is in a vulnerable situation and to put in place some automated solutions. We also called for evidence on the spending, time and other thresholds at which checks or action should be taken.
The proposals only applied to gambling online – not on tracks or in gambling premises – and are part of our ongoing work to improve consumer protections in online gambling.
We received approximately 13,000 responses (1,000 responses to our full consultation and call for evidence, and 12,000 to our short survey) and have been analysing the evidence and considering what respondents said. This is an update on our progress and next steps.
We have carefully considered the responses to the proposals we consulted on and the call for evidence. Many people think there should be protections in place for the most vulnerable and that appropriate checks should be in place to identify and prevent cases of clearly unaffordable gambling. Many respondents emphasised that measures should be proportionate and targeted at those at risk of harm. At the same time, customers were also concerned about privacy and freedom of choice. We take that seriously.
We want to achieve the right balance and have listened to concerns about what could be seen as unnecessary assessment of time and money spent gambling. However, we continue to see many serious failings towards customers in our casework and need to take action now to address the most significant risks. This includes customers spending thousands of pounds in short periods of time and vulnerable customers being harmed.
We have concluded that stronger requirements are needed for operators to identify a range of indicators of harm and take appropriate action more often and at an earlier stage.
From our casework and evidence on financial spend, we have identified that there are three key risks that the Commission is prioritising for action:
Significant losses in a very short time
Cases where customers have been able to spend many thousands of pounds in short periods, including minutes, without any checks. These cases are relatively rare but have very significant impacts on the consumers affected. For example, in a recent case a customer lost four thousand pounds in six minutes following sign-up.
Significant losses over time
Where customers have significant losses over a period of time without sufficient assessment of whether they are being harmed. Significant losses over time are experienced by a relatively small proportion of customers and it is appropriate to require checks for these customers. An example of this in our casework was where a customer lost thirty-five thousand pounds over two months, without sufficient checks being carried out.
Where information is available that shows when customers are particularly financially vulnerable and likely to be harmed by their level of gambling.
Our next steps will be to:
Publish a full response this summer setting out our detailed actions on the areas on which we previously put forward proposals for consultation, including the requirement to take action where customers are known to be in a vulnerable situation, the requirement to take action in a timely manner, and in some cases for that action to be automated. We will also proceed as planned with a consultation on thresholds for operators to take action and guidance on what those actions should be.
Continue to work closely with DCMS to feed in advice and evidence to the Government’s Gambling Act Review - recognising that broader public policy questions about how to protect people from harm will be considered as part of the Review.
Continue to engage with consumers, the financial sector and the gambling industry on the information about customers that should be available to gambling businesses.
Continue our broader programme of work to support the prevention of harm, including working to ensure that existing tools for setting deposit limits are used more widely and effectively.
We will provide further updates when the next consultation launches.
In the meantime, we expect remote operators to meet the Commission’s current customer interaction requirements.