Since initial publication back in April, the UK Gambling White Paper has been the subject of widespread discussion. The upcoming changes mark what will be the first major overhaul to UK gambling regulations since the 2005 Gambling Act review.
The first round
The first round of consultations began in July and closed on 18 October. These discussions sought to address topics including age verification processes, the control consumers have over the marketing they receive, financial risk, affordability checks and more.
Likely outcomes include the implementation of a maximum per-spin slot stake limit based on the age of the player, as well as financial affordability checks which are triggered by certain losses, and the introduction of a mandatory levy to ensure operators contribute sufficiently to organisations which target harmful gambling.
Controversy surrounding affordability checks has arisen over recent weeks, with Nevin Truesdale of the Jockey Club launching an online petition opposing them, which quickly gained significant support. It is felt that the proposed one-size-fits-all approach to these measures is reductive and unsuitable.
The second round topics
The Gambling Commission’s latest update confirms that the second round of consultations will be going ahead this winter. The same update outlines a number of key topics to be addressed.
Socially responsible promotions
In the latest round of consultations, attention has turned to socially responsible incentives, including bonuses, which may result in stricter regulations surrounding offers.
On this point, the UKGC’s Tim Miller outlined why bonuses will now fall under the spotlight.
“We will consult on proposals relating to incentives such as free bets and bonuses, to make sure they do not encourage harmful or excessive gambling.”
Furthermore, the upcoming consultations will address the topic of financial penalties for operators. It is intended that future fines will be devised in such a way as to “ensure that penalties are set at a level where the costs of non-compliance outweigh the costs of compliance".
The UKGC is seeking to change the way in which such penalties are calculated, offering greater clarity to operators, and potentially tougher penalties for failing to comply with the existing fairness and transparency regulations.
There are also expected to be further discussions regarding the statutory levy’s annual contributions to the Commission’s Research, Preventions and Treatment fund, as well as how these funds are distributed.
Protection of funds
The Commission also wants to increase transparency regarding how players’ funds are stored, so that, if the operator holding the funds offers no protection in the case of insolvency, this is made clear to the player.
It’s not yet clear whether discussions will touch on actual levels of protection and insurance that should be in place.
Operator data use
In October, the Commission’s Ben Haden published a blog post regarding the use of operator data, arguing that it is a “rich resource in terms of ensuring [that] we understand how the market is developing” with implications for intervention practices, financial penalties for operators, and more.
The second round of consultations will discuss potentially increasing the frequency with which operators are required to provide reports, from yearly to quarterly.
Additionally, moving ahead, ‘key events’ such as acquisitions and mergers will need to be reported. This is to enable the Commission to adjust their approaches to regulation in the face of globalisation and mergers, which has increased in recent years.
Also up for discussion will be matters such as gambling management tools – intended to empower players to monitor and limit their access to gambling websites, set deposit limits, or even self-exclude altogether.
It’s unclear how the UKGC plans to improve on the existing system of customer-led tools, but it seems likely that the focus will be on ease of access and education on how these tools actually work.
What to expect
As with the first round, the second round of consultations are due to last for 12 weeks, and will involve a number of key industry figures representing regulators, operators, relevant charities and individuals.
It’s likely that players and operators will have to wait until early next year to find out more about how they’ll be affected by the proposed changes.
That said, it’s likely that the emphasis of these discussions, as was the case in the first round, will be on improving transparency for all, protecting problem gamblers, particularly in younger age groups, and moving British gambling law into the modern, digital era.