COVID-19: An opportunity to alleviate problem gambling

LexisNexis Risk Solutions consultant Angus Sim discusses how KYC can help foster better customer relations – and protections

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he online gambling industry has seen considerable growth over the past few years. There were 106,670 people employed by operators licensed by the Gambling Commission last year, and according to, the industry was worth over £14 billion in 2018, having grown from £8bn in 2011. This increase in revenue  themselves, but has generated new income  people to enjoy events of all sizes, without needing to be physically present. Alongside the positive growth story, the 

challenge – the rise of gambling addiction and problem gambling. Gambling can be highly addictive and similarities are often drawn with the alcohol industry. The sector is well aware of the problems, as well as the negative impacts it can have on players, and is working hard to support and educate consumers on how to gamble responsibly.

The current COVID-19 crisis has changed the way we all live and the gambling sector is no exception. With live sporting events – the sector’s key revenue driver – curtailed by lockdown, the sector has innovated new ways to reach consumers. This has, once again, shone the spotlight on the industry, as evidence of gambling-related problems, including affordability issues and related social harms, hit the headlines.

…the first step in supporting vulnerable

customers is for betting companies

to be able to reliably identify them

60 JULY 2020 GIO

The gambling industry is aware that it needs to encourage responsible behaviour and work alongside the regulators to protect vulnerable individuals who may struggle with problem behaviours. Amongst these solutions is the use of data, which can be particularly useful in building a strong and distinct identity for each  vulnerable customers is for betting companies to be able to reliably identify them. The question is how can the gambling industry better understand problem gambling in such as way that will help operators avoid targeting potentially vulnerable customers. This is especially important given growing evidence of the link between addiction and

mental health problems, both of which have been greatly exacerbated by national government-enforced lockdown. With a clear picture of the problem, the industry is better placed to identify successful strategies to solve it.

In this era of digitisation, gambling must recognise and embrace the evolution of KYC (Know Your Customer). That means not just checking that they are who they say they are from a risk and fraud perspective, but understanding their needs and vulnerabilities as individuals. In a face-to-face setting, body language and good judgement can play a role in determining whether an individual should be granted access to a service, whether it’s a bartender serving alcohol or a clerk at a bookmaker’s. In a digital setting, visual indicators are not available, but are just as important when selling a potentially addictive service.

Such objective assessment may seem – on the face of it – a tall order for a technological solution, the questions that gambling companies need to answer are reasonably basic: is the customer who they claim to be? Is this their only account, or do they have multiple accounts? Have they been excluded from similar services in the past? What do their usage patterns tell us about their behaviour? Unfortunately, even this basic information is  customer themselves don’t recognise they 

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