UK operators to age restrict VIP schemes and slow down spins

Gambling Commission announces changes that look to protect vulnerable players

The Gambling Commission, working in collaboration with over 30 UK operators have agreed several new measures to make gambling safer and reduce harm.

The collaborative working group ran workshops alongside GamCare and several players who have had first-hand experience of gambling harm in order to ensure they were taking steps in the right direction with regards to their safeguarding measures.

The measures agreed upon so far include imposing stricter age restrictions on both VIP programs and targeted gambling ads, as well as slowing down the time it takes for an online slot game to complete a single spin. 

Big changes in the way that operators target VIP customers

Going forward operators will no longer be able to recruit players under the age of 25 onto their VIP programmes. Those that are recruited will have to go through thorough financial checks related to spend before they can be approved. 

In addition tho this all reward programmes must have full audit trail which details the decision making processes, specifying senior oversight and accountability. 

The Gambling Commission have agreed to monitor and support implementation of the industry’s code as an interim measure and it's expected that these measures will be rolled out within the next three months.

Operators to implement Safer advertising across digital channels

By July of this year operators will have to ensure that all online advertising on social media and any gambling content on YouTube will only target those aged 25 and above.

Operators have also agreed to make better use of customer data to ensure that paid-for advertisements on platforms such as Facebook, Instagram and Twitter do not specifically target vulnerable groups, rather than targeting as many players as possible that may be interested in playing at their casino. 

Slowing down gameplay and other measures to curb intensive play

Several major gameplay changes have also been recommended that will affect the way UK casino enthusiasts play. The biggest change is the speed of spins, which will be slowed down to 2.5 seconds on all slot games. 

Gameplay features that encourage intensive play such as turbo spins will also be removed along with split screen slots that have long been associated with problem gambling due to their ability to let players spin at a much more higher rate than normal.

When can we expect to see these changed implemented? 

Naturally, it's expected that things will move slower as a result of the current COVID-19 outbreak, however online operators do find themselves in a better position to implement these changes sooner rather than later in comparison to land-based operators. 

A more detailed work plan is expected in the coming months which is set to include further details on in-game messaging. We can also expect the creation of a Betting and Gaming Council Testing Lab which will look into other game features and how they can impact players. Publication of the final code is set for September 2020.

'Actions speak louder than words' warns Gambling Commission chief

Speaking about the new measures Neil McArthur, Chief Executive of the Gambling Commission said: “We have been encouraged by the progress on VIP incentives, safer advertising and safer products.  We set these challenges in order to deliver real and rapid change for consumers in key areas of risk. However, it is important these commitments are implemented as soon as possible. It should not take months to implement safeguards many would expect to be in place already. 

“By working together with operators and seeking the views of people with lived experience of gambling harm we have been able to make significant progress, although there is always more to do. We will now consult on the necessary changes to our rule book to ensure all operators have to meet the new standards.

 “Whilst we are encouraged by industry proposals for making gambling products safer we now call on operators to implement those proposals rapidly; but the proposals do not go far enough and we will now consider what additional measures we should impose on operators. 

 “I recognise that the Covid-19 outbreak will impact on next steps and actions, in particular land-based operators. I welcome the fact that the operators involved and the BGC have remained committed to progressing this work during these difficult times. That is a positive sign of their commitment to make the industry safer.”

“Ultimately actions speak louder than words and any operator that does not put consumer safety first will find itself a target for enforcement action.”