Of all the possible law changes that might come into power following the government’s White Paper review into the UK gambling sector, the spectre of affordability checks is the one thing that has really irked punters and operators alike.
It had been suggested by some that a blanket affordability review would be implemented upon anyone that wagers £100 or more per month, however the Gambling Minister – Chris Philp – appeared to reject that idea as he gave a speech to the GambleAware conference in London this week.
Instead, Philp seemed to intimate that ‘proportionate’ affordability checks would be part of the upcoming raft of law changes, although details were quite thin on the ground as to the exact nature of what proportionate might mean.
But still, it will come as something of a relief to the industry, you suspect, who were fearing the introduction of blanket checks on their customers – and there was a genuine fear that such a rule would force punters into the arms of black market and offshore betting firms who only have to adhere to the rather ‘laidback’ standards of the Curacao Gaming Control Board.
Prevention Beats the Cure
The entirety of Philp’s speech has been republished on the Gov.uk website.
He thanked GambleAware for the invitation to speak, before detailing the importance of tackling problem gambling both for individual punters and the sector as a whole.
Philp also revealed the two main mandates he has after being appointed Gambling Minister back in September. “Firstly, delivering on the manifesto commitment to make the UK the safest place in the world to go online and set the global standard for internet safety,” he said.
“Secondly, is the manifesto commitment to comprehensively review the Gambling Act to ensure we have the right protections for the digital age.”
He reiterated his belief that ‘prevention is better than a cure’ when it comes to problem gambling, although it wasn’t long before bookmakers and casinos entered his crosshairs, with Philp stating that ‘I’ve heard too many stories about people losing obviously unaffordable sums of money, not prevented by operators who had data to stop it from happening.’
The Government’s White Paper and review received a staggering 16,000 submissions from all stakeholders in the gambling industry, and revealed that the findings of the report – and its associated law changes – will be announced ‘in the coming months.’
The minister than began to discuss some of the specifics that could well be expected, after first speaking of a ‘robust system to prevent unaffordable online gambling.’ In a revelation that came as a relief to many, Philp said that ‘demanding payslips or bank statements from every customer spending £100 or so is likely to be unwelcome, disruptive and disproportionate to the risks.’
The idea of a Single Customer View (SCV) was also raised. This refers to those punters that have live accounts set up with multiple bookmakers, allowing them to switch from one to another when they have triggered their limits. Philp intimated that this process was leading to problem gambling not being identified in some cases, and confirmed that online betting sites would be asked to work together with one another to recognise issues – rather than taking an account-by-account stance.
One of the questions that many in the betting game had as pat of the consultation were about the UK Gambling Commission, and whether or not the regulator was fit for purpose and had the necessary powers to enact change.
There were some who insinuated that the Commission might be ousted as part of the White Paper, however it would appear as though the regulator has a future given the number of times that Philp referred directly to them.
He promised the Commission that the government would invest in better and wider ranging access to data to power their investigative work, and give them the powers to demand that operators hand over their player data when requested.
And in even better news for the beleaguered regulator, Philp said that ‘one of my priorities is to ensure that they [the Commission] have all the tools that they need to uphold the licensing objectives.’
“The Commission is central to all of the promising projects I have just mentioned and I want them to continue to build on the excellent work they have done over recent years to protect vulnerable consumers,” Philp confirmed.
The Gambling Minister signed off his speech shortly after, and was given a warm round of applause by attendees. Perhaps he impressed 10 Downing Street enough to secure an invite to one of Boris Johnson’s notorious Christmas parties?