Better late than never, the government has finally published their white paper into regulatory reform in the UK gambling industry.
Its contents bear no real surprises, with stake limits for online slot games and some affordability checks the main takeaways.
It’s important to note that the legislation hasn’t brought about change right away; the white paper is merely a set of recommendations, with some of the topics raised likely to go to consultation – with rule changes then likely.
So these are the key points published in the white paper, which may well lead to a moving of the goalposts in the months ahead:
It has been recommended that affordability checks on some punters ARE carried out, however these are at a threshold that is beyond the scope of most casual bettors.
The first is an intervention when a punter suffers a loss of £125 or more in a single month, or a loss of £500 or more in a year (this is a rolling 12-month period, rather than a calendar year).
A second set of affordability checks will be carried out if a punter appears to be in the midst of ‘binge gambling’, which ministers describe as a loss of £1,000 or more over a 24-hour period.
The paper doesn’t go into specifics about what these affordability checks will entail, although it’s believed that bookmakers, casinos and other online gambling operators will be allowed to seek ‘open source’ details about a customer, such as County Court Judgements, previous bankruptcies and even the average finances of their postcode.
The government estimates that it will be able to perform ‘frictionless’ affordability checks in 80% of cases, although the other 20% may require checks they have described as ‘disagreeable’: payslips, bank statements and the like.
In the report, which was helmed by the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, Lucy Frazer, there is an insinuation that the levels at which affordability checks are triggered could be lower for younger punters. “We also propose that the triggers for enhanced checks should be lower for those aged 18 to 24,” the report reads.
Although not a given quite yet, the government has revealed that they ‘propose to introduce’ maximum stake limits for online slot games.
A rather wide margin of between £2 and £15 is mentioned in the paper, which they believe would ‘prevent slots play where there is an elevated risk of rapid losses and/or harm, while leaving the majority of customers who play at low stakes unaffected.’
However, younger players could once again be targeted, with a mandatory £2 stake limit or an approach based on individual risk both on the table for those aged 18-24.
Other changes to slot gaming, such as removing accelerated gameplay via auto-spin functions, are expected.
Lifting the Veil
There has been something of a trend of late for overseas companies muscling into the UK gambling industry not through direct approval, but instead by buddying up with a third party firm that does have a UK operating licence.
This could clearly lead to problems for customers when a bookmaker or casino delivers a poor level of service, with the UK Gambling Commission not able to sanction the offshore outfit for non-compliance.
As a result, it’s likely that rule changes – flagged up by the white paper – will be introduced that minimise the risks of such ‘white label’ agreements.
The white paper details a series of possible changes that could loosen the regulation governing land-based casinos.
That will allow many casinos, which meet necessary floor space requirements, to have more gaming machines and tables, while smaller establishments will also be able to offer more gaming on a ‘pro rata’ basis commensurate to their size.
And one of the biggest changes proposed in the white paper would see land-based casinos able to offer sports betting, which would bring the UK market into line with the ‘hybrid’ gambling establishments of America.
As expected, the government will introduce a statutory gambling ombudsman to ensure that all customers have access to a dispute resolution service if the industry does not come up with a system of its own.
The data collected by the ombudsman will be passed on to the Gambling Commission, who may be able to penalise operators that are considered to be repeat offenders.
The government expects that the new ombudsman would be ‘established within a year’.