UK Gambling Commission not to impose mandatory bettor checks
While those involved in the betting and gaming industry in the UK are still eagerly awaiting the release of the White Paper on gambling which was due to be published in February, the UK Gambling Commission continues to release bits of information about it. In the latest of statements, UK Gambling Commission CEO Andrew Rhodes pointed out that the Commission is not planning to make betting sites carry out mandatory affordability checks on their customers. However, industry experts point out that this only makes things more complicated for bookmakers and betting companies.
According to Rhodes and the UK Gambling Commission, affordability checks will not be a mandatory part of the UK betting industry. The plot twist, however, is that bookmakers and betting sites will still have to make sure that customers do not spend over their means. While the Commission will not require the checks, they will continue to monitor and investigate the operations of betting sites in the UK, and will take enforcement action in instances when there discover failings in relation to know your customer, affordability checks, responsible gambling, and anti-money laundering policies and procedures.
This means that UK betting sites are facing a problem, namely to find the balance between maintaining fun betting experience for users, and implementing enough checks to satisfy the unwritten rules of the UK Gambling Commission. Operators have already said that they would prefer to have set limits and regulations to help them implement affordability checks more easily. One of the most vocal parties in the debate has been Entain, the group behind large betting sites Ladbrokes and Coral. Having already been fined record £17m despite trying its best to adhere to the industry standards, Entain is now calling for stricter and clearer regulations for betting and gaming.
The overwhelming evidence so far is that UK betting sites want to make sure that any potential harm from gambling is eliminated, and they are going the extra mile to try and implement effective responsible gambling measures. An example is William Hill – in response to unclear know your customer and responsible gambling regulations, the bookmaker has imposed a blanket limit on deposits instead of implementing affordability checks. This will first come into action for the upcoming Cheltenham Festival, one of the biggest horse-racing events in the world. Instead of asking bettors for their financial details and deciding how much they can afford to bet, William Hill will be implementing a £500 spending limit across their system. Should this tactic prove effective, the bookmaker will probably extend it to the upcoming Randox Grand National Festival, of which William Hill became the official betting partner for the next three years.
Speaking about the future changes that will be undoubtedly implemented as a result of the publishing of the White Paper, Rhodes said:
“The reality is, there are risks that are present in the industry now that need to be addressed and that is what we have been focused on.”
Rhodes went on to say that “a range of customers are experiencing harm or are likely to”.
Indeed, in recent months, the UK Gambling Commission has taken regulatory action several times and has fined UK betting sites for failing to implement responsible gambling checks and processes. These, however, have been limited incidents, and the vast majority of licenced UK betting sites have complied with the regulations and had worked hard and invested into making the industry safer for everyone. The Commission admits that the cases that it investigates are “the extreme cases”.
Rhodes also confirmed that the problematic gambling in the UK consists of 0.3% to 0.5% of all gambling. For reference, about 22.5 million people in the country bet on a regular basis. Rhodes has already been asked why some safer forms of gambling such as horse racing are not treated differently and less strictly than other, more problematic forms of gambling, and he has confirmed that the position of the Gambling Commission is that all betting and gaming must be considered together because people who are at risk of gambling harm would be betting in many different ways across different channels.
The White Paper on UK Gambling was promised for February 2023. As there is less than a week left until the end of February, the publication of this milestone work is imminent, and it may well mean the start of large-scale changes across the industry. These changes will not take place instantaneously – UK Gambling Minister Paul Scully has confirmed that the White Paper will be followed by consultations and collaboration with betting providers and everyone involved in the industry, in order to find the perfect balance between regulations and enjoyment. We will continue to follow the topic and will report any relevant news on our website.