Filling the gaps: A comprehensive solution to problem gambling

LexisNexis Risk Solutions’ Senior Director Product Management, Paul Weathersby, looks at how an overarching Digital ID could help problem gamblers achieve total exclusion.


ver recent years, stories about gambling have hit the headlines for numerous reasons, whether it was the Government’s decision to limit the maximum stake on fixed odds betting terminals or the fact that 55,000 children were identified as problem gamblers in 2018 alone. Furthermore, a number of high-profile gambling addiction cases demanded the attention of the media, and most importantly the attention of the Gambling Commission.

As you’d expect, the growing problem gambling issue is not one the Gambling Commission is taking lightly. In its Gambling Commission Strategy 2018-2021 – making gambling fairer and safer, it outlined plans to make gambling fairer and safer for all participants, and also to place more stringent requirements on the gambling operators, including substantial fines for operators who have not met the needs of vulnerable individuals.

A key requirement of this strategy is giving individuals the power to bar themselves from gambling sites, a scheme known as self- exclusion. GamStop is a service that enables self-exclusion from multiple providers, of which there are around 144. This is a key step forward in tackling the challenge of problem gamblers as up until now they would need to exclude themselves from each and every gambling operator they use on an individual basis.


Whilst the new self-exclusion scheme is a huge step forward for individuals looking to help themselves, there is a concern that the service can be too easily manipulated. At the point of sign up, the service requires that individuals enter their personal details, such as postcode, date of birth and email address.

Whilst users are advised to enter the correct details, if they were to subsequently alter any of these values when trying to enter an online gaming site, for example inputting a different email address, then the blocking mechanism would be effectively overcome due to the data not matching. Whilst the argument can be made that it’s up to the individual who has self-excluded to provide the correct information and not manipulate the system, it can also be argued that more should be done to ensure total protection.

New rules set out by the Gambling Commission, which come into effect 7th May 2019, will help to combat manipulation, requiring a customer’s name, date of birth and address to be verified before they can gamble, helping to prevent the Gamstop scheme from being circumnavigated. However the ideal system would be able to identify a person even with a change of details, ensuring users were prevented from overriding it in a moment of weakness.

A COMPLETE SOLUTION In order to effectively overcome this problem

 Digital ID scheme could be the solution. A Digital ID scheme provides users with the ability to prove who they are online, and companies to know exactly who the end user is. Over recent years, the adoption and acceleration of Digital ID schemes has been fairly widespread across Norway and Estonia, but not yet among the larger economies. To date, such schemes have predominantly focused upon the financial services sector, but if they were applied to the gambling industry, they could prove successful in overcoming the current loopholes users face.

Widespread use of a Digital ID scheme across the online gambling sector could mean that to

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open an account with a new operator, users would be required to use their Digital ID to login and access online gambling services. As a result of a Digital ID being used, the self- exclusion system could be extended to exclude the Digital ID of an individual, effectively blocking those users from using current operators or signing up to new operators. Furthermore, to create a Digital ID, users must undergo a series of checks to ensure they are who they say they are, making it much harder to fool a system by slightly altering personal details. Once created, not only does it make it easier for users to sign up to different online gaming sites, but information between operators will be far easier to safely share, allowing gambling sites to identify individual patterns of behaviour and detect potential problem gamblers sooner. Currently, due to operators acting in silos, individuals can build up personal debt by placing stakes across a range of operators, without any consequence.

Problem gambling has recently gained significant media attention and the Gambling Commission has been quick to react and help prevent the growth of the issue. However, whilst steps are being put in place to help crack down on the issue, there are stills gaps evident in the approach. To help fill in these gaps and help problem gamblers, a Digital ID could be the solution. By creating one overarching digital presence across gambling sites, individuals will no longer be able to play the system, and instead will get what they set out to achieve – total exclusion.

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