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Gambling Commission timeline for new affordability checks and online casino rules 

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The British gambling regulator has announced a phased introduction of new measures.

UK.- After much debate, the Gambling Commission is finally advancing with plans to introduce affordability checks in British gambling. Checks will initially apply to online gamblers who lose £500, but the threshold will be reduced to £150 next year.

The phased approach will see the £500 threshold apply from August 30 of this year. The lower £150 threshold will be introduced from February 28, 2025. These checks will be “light-touch” passive checks that customers will not notice.

The Gambling Commission has also announced a pilot for deeper financial risk assessments for customers at risk of losing large sums in a short time. From August, operators will use publicly available data to identify customers who could be financially vulnerable, including customers subject to bankruptcy orders or who have unpaid debts.

Checks will make use of credit reference agency data rather than require the presentation of payslips or bank statements. Stuart Andrew, the minister responsible for gambling policy, said only 20 per cent of customers would face the checks and they would not notice them. They will not take place in a live environment or affect player credit ratings.

Gambling Commission executive director of policy development Tim Miller said that the operators involved in the pilot “will look at historic data”, analysing past accounts as well as current betting accounts. Miller said the regulator will invite smaller operators to take part as its thinks that “for some of them, the regulatory burden could be higher.”

Based on the data viewed, gambling companies could encourage vulnerable customers to set a deposit limit, or take direct action to limit customer spending in extreme cases.

Restrictions on online casino features

Meanwhile, the Gambling Commission has announced a ban on certain features in online casino games. From January 17, features that give players an “illusion of control”, such as “turbo” and “slam stops” will be banned along with autoplay and sounds and visuals that celebrate returns that are less than or equal to the original stake. The industry adopted a voluntary ban on some such features in 2021.

Also from January 17, operators must also display a player’s net spend and the amount of time playing. Meanwhile, operators must give players the option to opt-in to the product types they want to receive information on.

Age verification at land-based gaming venues

The new rules also include stronger age verification rules for land-based gaming operators. All land-based licensees will be required to carry out age verification test procedures. The good practice code will be updated to state that staff should check a customer’s age if they appear under the age of 25, rather than the current 21.

New BGC voluntary code for gambling operators

Meanwhile, the Betting and Gaming Council (BGC) has announced an update to its voluntary code for members. It is introducing a requirement for risk assessments on customers who want to make a net deposit of more than £5,000 per month (or £2,500 for players aged under 24).

The Code on Customer Checks will function as a voluntary interim initiative until the Gambling Commission’s pilot has passed the testing stage.

The risk assessment can take one or more of the following forms: 

  • A safer gambling-based interaction with a customer, including a declaration of income via a two-way live chat or phone call
  • An analysis of affordability, projecting income by asking for information such as job title and annual salary
  • A review of open-source information, for example Companies House filings and previous winnings
  • A review of information supplied by the customer
  • Financial insights from a third party 
  • If an operator identifies high-risk activity, it would need to escalate the risk assessment into the enhanced consideration category

Customers who make a net deposit of £25,000 in any rolling 12-month period will be subject to enhanced consideration checks. For this process, operators can use customer winnings and net position in their assessment.

The BGC and the Commission are also working on a new anti-money laundering code.

The BGC said: “While this code delivers progress on resolving the issue of intrusive document checks, it does not offer a complete solution. So, the BGC and GC are now actively working on a new Code on Anti-Money Laundering checks, which also trigger requests for documents.”

Michael Dugher, CEO and acting chair, said: “This code is good progress towards solving an issue that has generated such heated public debate. It will significantly increase the consistency of safer gambling standards while removing intrusive document checks for many who are currently subject to detailed checks.

“It is vital to note that this new code sits on top of a host of other safer gambling measures our members already conduct. These only exist in the regulated sector. While this is good progress in the right direction, we are acutely aware more needs to be done.”

Horseracing response

Affordability checks have been one of the most controversial parts of the UK government’s gambling white paper, which was published in April of last year. The horseracing sector has been particularly concerned about their potential impact. 

The British Horseracing Authority (BHA) said it would closely monitor the pilot scheme on affordability checks.

BHA CEO Julie Harrington said, “We are reassured that the government has listened to racing’s long campaign against the affordability checks first outlined in its white paper more than a year ago.”

She added: “It is also vital that new rules on Anti-Money Laundering checks are established as soon as possible to prevent racing bettors from being caught up in separate requests for financial documents.”

She also reminded the government that it had said it would review the racing levy: “We remain concerned that there is no update on the government’s review of the levy, promised more than a year ago, and the threat it poses to racing’s financial well-being. We will continue to work collaboratively with secretary of state Lucy Frazer and sports minister Stuart Andrew to secure a review of the levy that delivers a sustainable funding model for Britain’s second most-watched sport, safeguarding thousands of jobs and an economic lifeline in Britain’s rural communities.

“It remains our belief that the simplest way to do this is to increase the basic rate of levy and include bets taken on overseas racing to put our sport on a level playing field with other jurisdictions.”

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