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UK LEGAL COMMENT


Gambling Commission consults on enhanced customer interaction requirements


Northridge Law’s Melanie Ellis looks at the latest developments in gaming in the UK


T


he Gambling Commission has launched a consultation exercise on its proposals to strengthen customer interaction requirements, with a focus on affordability checks. This comes hot on the heels of the conclusion of regulatory


action against three operators (BGO, GAN and NetBet), which highlighted issues with inadequate interactions with some high spending customers. These issues included interactions with one customer who lost £159k involving mainly pop up questionnaires and another customer who deposited large amounts between 12am and 1am receiving only an email in the morning, because no one from the operator’s responsible gambling team was on duty at night. Although the consultation suggests amendments to Social


Responsibility Code Provision (SRCP) 3.4.1, which applies to all operators, it states that the new requirements would apply to remote operators only. Many of the proposals rely on account-based play to be implemented, however, some are capable of being applied equally in a non-remote setting, for example a proposed requirement to interact with customers in a timely manner when risks of harm have been identified. To avoid creating a two-tiered level of expectations, there may be calls for some of the proposed new provisions to be applied to non-remote settings as well. The Commission plans to make it clear to operators what is expected, by setting out specific customer interaction


measures which its remote licensees will be required to deliver. A call for evidence is being carried out at the same time, which will assist the Commission is setting figures for the key indicators and triggers, in particular a financial threshold for mandatory affordability checks. The new provisions would be accompanied by a customer interaction manual, setting out implementation guidance. Additional requirements are proposed for each of the Commission’s existing three customer interaction processes: identification, interaction and evaluation.


Identification – indicators of harm


The Commission acknowledges that it can be difficult to identify customers who are at risk of harm, or are experiencing harm from gambling. However, it has found deficiencies in the current practices employed by some operators, including procedures that are too slow, rely on manual action or rely on third parties to have sufficient processes. To address these issues, the Commission proposes to specify the types of activity which must be monitored by operators, that their processes must flag up indicators of harm in a timely manner and that they must work to support automated response in some instances. A new SRCP would specify that operators must have effective systems in place to monitor customer activity and identify harm or potential harm from the point an account is opened and that this system must flag indicator of harm in a timely manner for intervention. The “must” wording in these provisions means that in any case where an operator’s system fails to flag an indicator of risk in a timely manner, they would be in breach of their licence and could be subject to a regulatory penalty. This will place a high compliance burden on licensees. For three key indicators – affordability, vulnerability and time spent gambling, the Commission proposes to set specific requirements following a call for evidence, which will run in parallel to the consultation.


Proposed triggers


In relation to a monthly loss trigger for affordability checks, the Commission is clear that this figure should reflect average discretionary incomes and cannot be more than £2,000 per month. However, the Commission will not set the figure at anything less than £100, appreciating the need for action to be proportionate. It appears to be leaning towards a figure of a few hundred pounds per month, which


30 NOVEMBER 2020


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