Advice to the Gambling Commission on actions to reduce online harms
The Gambling Commission’s independent advisers, the Advisory Board for Safer Gambling (“ABSG”) and the Digital Advisory Panel (“DAP”) were tasked by the Gambling Commission, with looking at reducing gambling harm online. The Gambling Commission has recently published the advice from both advisers.
Advisory Board for Safer Gambling advice
Summary of key recommendations from the Advisory Board for Safer Gambling’s advice, written in September 2019:
- Transparency and evaluation: Making assurance statements public documents with written feedback, creating a data repository and updating the evaluation protocol.
- Detection of harms: Requiring licensees to be more transparent about the approaches used to detect harm and mandating minimum standards based on the best practice.
- Effective interventions: By using the Implementation Plan for the National Strategy to pilot and evaluate a wide range of harm prevention interventions, creating a mechanism to work with experts by experience to co-create effective harm prevention activities, and improvements to the self-exclusion scheme and return to gambling from self-exclusion. Also partnering with the financial services sector and exploring IP blocking powers to disrupt illegal online gaming.
- Game design and product characteristics: Improving understanding on product and game characteristics and their links to harm, banning the use of credit cards, customer information on products and risks, banning reverse withdrawals and using further strong enforcement measures.
- Stake, prize and speed of play limits: Planning how a regime could be implemented for online gambling and, unless significant progress is made by licensee on player protection, working with the Government to introduce online limits on stakes, prizes and speed of play.
- Marketing and advertising: Exploring technological solutions to reduce exposure for children and vulnerable people (including AdTech to proactively restrict exposure) and advocating a precautionary approach in relation to children and vulnerable people.
Digital Advisory Panel advice
The Digital Advisory Panel, which reports to the Board of the Gambling Commission via the CEO, meets approximately six times a year. Presently, it has six members from a range of technology backgrounds, including the current Managing Director of Twitter UK.
The Digital Advisory Panel’s terms of reference refer to the pace of change in the online gambling industry giving rise to new risks, opportunities and regulatory challenges, which the Gambling Commission must be equipped to face. It is envisaged that the Digital Advisory Panel will assist in this challenge by advising on the digital landscape and emerging trends.
The advice, written in September 2019, refers to the Gambling Commission “challenge” as follows:
“The extent and nature of gambling in GB is being transformed by technology, particularly mobile technology. It is also clear that there is no sign that this growth is going to stop. The initial wave of online gambling characterised by the web, mobile apps and the links to social, is being overrun by a second wave of digital technologies impacting on the industry created by big data, analytics, artificial intelligence, the internet of things and wearables.
The impact of this second wave of digital technologies has yet to materialise fully. These technologies present operators with the opportunity to generate further growth by using the techniques developed by social media and games companies to maintain player engagement with their mobile apps and thereby increase their revenue and profits.”
In its advice, the Digital Advisory Panel refers to Ofcom research suggesting that British people:
- on average spend 24 hours a week online, twice as long as 10 years ago;
- one in five of all adults spending 40 hours online each week;
- check their phone every 12 minutes of the waking day; and
- two in five adults first look at their phone within five minutes of waking up, climbing to 65% of those aged under 35.
Summary of key recommendations:
- Habit forming apps: Regulating software development for apps and sites that promote addictive and compulsive usage. This might include increasing the ‘friction’ of using this software but will certainly involve consultation with operators and academics.
- Developing a single customer view: Requiring large operators to form an “arms-length joint venture” that will provide a service that will consolidate a single customer view for all online gambling activity, with improved interventions for problem gamblers and gamblers at-risk and further research into markers of harm and specific gambling triggers.
- Online advertising: Requiring operators to report annually on their progress in directing advertising away from problem and at-risk gamblers, and children.
- Gambling Commission operations: Avoiding the temptation to build online or digital technologies to monitor the activities of the operators or gamblers and considering the appointment of commissioners with digital awareness.
The Gambling Commission will host a “kick-off event”, in Birmingham, in February 2020 for industry and technology providers on the industry-wide challenge to find a technology solution to creating a single customer view. We expect that details will be published very shortly.
Following both sets of advice, the Gambling Commission has set tough challenges to the industry and expects to see progress on them by Spring 2020.