The United Kingdom Gambling Commission (UKGC) has released the roadmap for the next series of reforms to be instituted over the next few years as part of the agency’s ongoing consumer-protection practices. With an emphasis on online-smartphone gamblers, the UKGC promises to continue its efforts to make industry stakeholders and operators bear the burden of the costs of addictive gambling.
The Gambling Commission has kept the United Kingdom among the most strictly regulated firms in the online-gambling era, and the latest round of code updates will continue that practice. According to a UKGC statement, these are the primary directives for the agency’s immediate future:
- Plans include a mandatory levy on betting firms to pay for treatment of addiction, new player protection checks and stake limits for online slots
- Move will see Gambling Commission get tougher powers and follows recent high-profile fines against gambling operators for failing to protect people at risk
- Problem gambling affects an estimated 300,000 people and can lead to people losing life-changing sums of money
Adhering to best consumer-protection practices
The UKGC has cited gambling research that indicates there may be as many as 300,000 problem gamblers in the country. Catastrophic outcomes are far more rare, but the agency continues its striving to make the industry adhere to best practices regarding identifying and limiting gamblers who may face addiction.
In announcing the roadmap, the UKGC announced several planned initiatives to combat the worst addictive behaviors. The UKGC also intends to strengthen its weapons to use against online black-market operators that serve the country without regulatory approval. The planned initiatives include the following:
- A statutory gambling operator levy to ensure that operators help fund treatment services and research, including through the NHS. Currently the size of the contribution is not mandated and not all betting companies pay their fair share – some have paid as little as £1.
- New stake limits for online slots games that will be between £2 and £15 per spin. We will also consult on measures to give greater protections for 18–24 year olds who the evidence shows are at heightened risk of harm.
- Frictionless player protection checks to protect those most at risk of harm before unaffordable or harmful losses are incurred.
- Extra powers for the Gambling Commission to enable it to tackle black market operators through court orders and work with internet service providers (ISPs) to take down and block illegal gambling sites.
- Rules to prevent bonus offers harming vulnerable people – for example, looking at how free bets or spins are constructed and targeted to stop them being harmful.
- Closing loopholes to make sure under-18s cannot gamble either online or via cash fruit machines, and includes bringing football pools betting in line with National Lottery play for over-18s only.
- A new industry ombudsman to deal with disputes and rule on redress where a customer suffers losses due to an operator failing in their player protection duties.
- A review of the current horserace betting levy to make certain racing continues to thrive.
UKGC has lengthy history of fining deficient operators
In releasing the new roadmap, the UKGC cited several recent instances where it has fined operators for not adhering to already established rules. That included a record £19.2 million fine levied against William Hill in March for a series of ongoing anti-money laundering (AML) and know-your-customer (KYC) failures.
UK Culture Secretary Lucy Frazer said, “We live in an age where people have a virtual mobile casino in their pockets. It has made gambling easier, quicker and often more fun, but when things go wrong it can see people lose thousands of pounds in a few swipes of the screen.
“So we are stepping in to update the law for those most at risk of harm with a new levy on gambling operators to pay for treatment and education, player protection checks and new online slots stake limits.”
Featured image source: UKGC