understanding the impact of the Gambling Commission White Paper and What it means for you
When the Government launched its review of existing gambling legislation in December 2020, its stated objectives were to:
“ (1) Examine whether changes are needed to the system of gambling regulation in Great Britain to reflect changes to the gambling landscape since 2005, particularly due to technological advances
(2) Ensure there is an appropriate balance between consumer freedoms and choice on the one hand, and prevention of harm to vulnerable groups and wider communities on the other
(3) Make sure customers are suitably protected whenever and wherever they are gambling, and that there is an equitable approach to the regulation of the online and the land based industries.”
When issuing the “comprehensive package of new measures”, Lucy Frazer (Secretary of State for Culture Media and Sport) indicated that there had been around 16,000 responses to the Government’s consultation – emphasising the level of interest in the sector and intended changes.
Whilst addressing the pressure to better protect the public from gambling related harms, the Government will have had one eye on the contribution that gambling taxes make to the UK economy (in excess of £3bn per year).
Upon announcing its proposals, the Government stated that it feels its proposals “strike the right balance between consumer freedoms and choice on the one hand and protection from harm on the other”.
The Government’s main proposals include:
- The imposition of a statutory levy is to be introduced on industry operators to research, combat and treat gambling harm and addiction (how this is to be calculated is not yet specified);
Ombudsman for dispute resolution
- an independent gambling ombudsman will be established to adjudicate on complaints relating to social responsibility and gambling harm;
- the data from the ombudsman will be used by the Gambling Commission to inform its enforcement work;
- the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport has proposed maximum stakes on slots between £2.00 and £15.00 per spin with lower thresholds to apply to new accounts;
- at one stage, a tiered or “smart” limit on stakes was anticipated but the White Paper has confirmed that in view of the Government’s desire for quick action in this area and therefore to avoid the need for primary legislation, a stake limit for online slot games will be fixed for all customers;
- “Unintrusive checks” (e.g. bankruptcy/CCJ search)will be undertaken on gamblers who lose more than £125 in 24 hours or £500 within a year (with affordability checks renamed by the White Paper as “financial risk checks”);
- these checks will escalate to “more detailed but still frictionless” checks at higher loss levels (£1,000 within 24 hours or £2,000 over 90 days). These levels are to be halved for those aged 18 to 24.
Data and Marketing
- mandatory data sharing between operators is to be imposed for high-risk online customers. It’s not clear yet what the triggers will be for a customer’s data to be shared, or whether any limits for further checks will then apply across all operators;
- the use of free bets, bonuses and wagering requirements are subject to review to ensure they are used in a socially responsible manner and do not encourage harmful or excessive gambling;
- the Commission is consulting on a range of measures such as maximum caps on wagering requirements and minimum time limits before offers expire;
- in addition, they are looking at the potential impacts of targeting groups or individuals with bonuses based on factors like high levels of spend;
- the Commission is considering the introduction of additional requirements for obtaining consent for direct marketing both as part of customer acquisition activity and for existing and new customers, particularly with a view to reduce the perceived risk of cross-selling between products. This could include specific and separate opt-ins to marketing generally, as well as for bonuses and cross-selling;
- the Industry Group for Responsible Gambling Code will be updated to extend the Betting & Gaming Council’s existing commitment of at least 20% of TV and radio ads space in the sector to being safer gambling focused to all advertising space across online and broadcast media;
Game design changes
- the Commission is looking at improving the safety of game design by building on the Remote Technical Standards requirements around online slot design, after which the Commission will consult on updates to expand similar principles to other products;
- the Commission is Looking at introducing mandatory deposit limits for all customers upon account creation and pre-populating the limit with a default amount. Measures requiring more prominent provision of information such as lifetime/annual losses will also be considered;
- safety messaging such as the “Take Time to Think” campaign is proposed to be led by statutory bodies using public health expertise rather than the industry.
In addition to the above, land-based restrictions have been amended as follows:
- a ban on under-18s using category D gaming machines (also known as fruit machines) is to be imposed;
- the Department for Culture, Media and Sport will work with the Commission to create consultation options for contactless payments (after considering the effect this could have on player protection);
- the Commission will consider changing its age verification slogan for land-based licensees from “Think 21” to “Think 25”;
- casinos are to be permitted to offer sports betting at their premises;
- limits on the number of slot machines in larger casinos will be eased, at a 5:1 ratio for slots to table games;
- smaller casinos will be able to host extra machines on a pro-rata basis, with the number determined by their size and non-gambling floorspace.
Overall, this is good news for the land-based gambling industry at the expense of the online industry. However, upon speaking to people across the gaming and betting industry, a widespread view is that the White Paper seems more balanced and proportionate than many in the industry had feared.
If you require any advice as to the impact the White Paper might have on your business, please contact our Arianne King at firstname.lastname@example.org