UK Gambling Commission Conducts Consultation on Suicide Disclosure and Gamstop
The UK Gambling Commission, the regulatory body responsible for all betting and gambling in the country, is launching a consultation about some changes it contemplates making in relation to the requirements currently in place for businesses involved in gambling in the UK. The three issues the commission is collecting feedback about are GAMSTOP, Suicide Disclosure, and Payment Services Regulations (PSR).
GAMSTOP is a service which allows bettors in the UK to exclude themselves voluntarily from betting sites. The service is free to use and aims to give people the controls they need in order to restrict their online gambling. All licensed UK betting sites are required to take part in the scheme. If a bettor decides to apply self-exclusion, they can do so for a period of 6 months, 1 year, or 5 years. 6 months is the minimum available period, however if bettors want to self-exclude for a shorter period, they can do so directly through their chosen betting site using a feature called “time out”. If a bettor self-excludes, they cannot remove the restrictions for the duration of the minimum period they chose, and will not be able to gamble online using licensed betting sites. Bettors will still be able to play National Lottery games, but will not be able to use instant win products such as scratch cards.
The scheme has been very successful in the United Kingdom and the Gambling Commission is interested in extending it beyond betting sites in order to cover other categories of betting licences. The Commission has considered the usefulness of applying GAMSTOP to “all betting licensees, including those that accept bets by telephone and email”. In order to do so, the Commission will have to update the Social Responsibility Code, specifically the part about Remote multi-operator self-exclusion, which would place a requirement on these additional categories of betting and gaming businesses to take part in the scheme.
The next issue of interest to the UK Gambling Commission is suicide disclosures. The Commission’s stakeholders have received notice that the Commission might find it beneficial if licenced businesses involved in the UK betting and gaming industry reported instances of customers who had used their services and who had taken their own lives. If the Commission receives enough support on this point, the Licence Conditions and Codes of Practice to which licenced betting sites and bookmakers operate may be amended to require them to inform the Commission “when they become aware that a customer who has gambled with them has died by suicide”. This would feature under Other Reportable Events as part of Licence Condition 15.2.2. The relationship between suicide and gambling is an under-researched area, however a study by the National Institute of Health has found that between 17 and 39 per cent of problem bettors have reported suicide ideations, and between 2 and 57 per cent have reported suicide attempts. When the Commission finds out about an incident where a bettor has taken their own life, they investigate this in order to establish if any regulatory failings have contributed to the incident.
Finally, the UK Gambling Commission is reviewing its approach to Payment Services Regulations and the technical requirements associated with them. The Commission has proposed to amend Licence Condition 5.1.2 in order to better reflect current and future legislative provisions. The condition currently applies to betting sites and online casino and bingo providers and is to do with the payment methods and payment service providers betting sites are allowed to use. Condition 5.1.2 refers to Schedule 1 Part 1 of the Payment Service Regulations 2009 (SI 2009 No 209), however that has now been superseded by Regulation 2 of the Payment Services Regulations 2017 (SI 2017 No 752). The commission wants to change the text of the Regulation in order to reflect this, and to make it future-proof in case of any future changes.
The Commission has made it clear that this consultation is completely separate from the Government White Paper on UK betting and gambling, which is now overdue. The Commission stated:
“At present, we consider it highly unlikely that the Review would affect the proposals in this consultation, and we consider that it is desirable to make progress on these topics in the interim. We will, of course, take account of the Government’s White Paper when it is available.”
The consultation is a testament to the Commission’s commitment to responsible gambling and the safety of bettors. The proposed changes to the regulations clearly aim to make betting sites safer for all customers and to take further steps to ensure that any risk of gambling harm is minimised. The consultation will continue for 12 weeks, closing on 23/05/2023. It can be accessed online, via the website of the Gambling Commission, or by clicking here.