The Gambling Commission (Commission) is taking views until 27 November 2018 on proposals to amend the LCCP in relation to strengthening age verification for online gambling. The consultation is relevant to all remote gaming and betting licensees and some remote lotteries, with the Commission welcoming views and any supporting evidence or insight from licensees and potential licensees, as well as consumers, members of the public and identity verification solution providers.
The consultation covers one of two policy recommendations on strengthening existing requirements to verify customer age and identity, as outlined in the Commission’s Review of online gambling (March 2018). The first policy recommendation concerning age verification seeks to amend social responsibility code provisions 3.2.11 and 3.2.13 (which broadly provide remote licensees with 72 hours to conduct age verification checks), and instead, will require remote licensees to enact procedures to verify customer age:
• before any money is deposited;
• before the customer is able to access free-to-play versions of gambling games the licensee may make available; and/or
• before the customer gambles with the licensee using either their own money or any free bet or bonus.
The Commission agreed with the Responsible Gambling Strategy Board’s findings (Children, young people and gambling: A case for action, June 2018) that there is a “strong precautionary basis to remove the 72-hour rule to reduce the risk of harm to children and young people”. Table 1 produced by the Commission indicates the number of individuals who were challenged but unable to prove their age.
Of those unable to prove their age, not all would necessarily have been under 18, however the table nevertheless highlights the significant scope of risk for potential underage gambling. Furthermore, as age verification methods have improved (verification software and solution providers for most gambling customers can now be completed within minutes or seconds), the 72-hour rule now seems particularly disproportionate when considered against the risks posed to potential underage gambling.
The proposed amendments will also require licensees to verify more information about their customers at an earlier stage in the relationship (including name, address, date of birth and email address), and that the name associated with the customer’s payment method matches the name of the gambling account holder, to ensure licensees are better equipped to reduce risks to the licensing objectives (see here for full proposed amends).
Society lotteries and ELMs
The proposed removal of the 72-hour rule will also apply to remote lottery licensees (barring customers on subscription and low-frequency lotteries), which will mean that customers wanting to access online instant win and digital scratch cards, or higher frequency lotteries such as daily play, must be fully age verified before they are able to participate (other than subscription to low frequency lottery) and before they can access any free-to-play versions of online instant games.
Future plans and impact
The second policy recommendation regarding customer due diligence will be addressed in a separate consultation at a later date and consider the requirement for licensees to set limits on customers’ gambling activity which can only be changed once the licensee has verified further information about the customer. In order to reduce the risk of gambling-related harm, such verification might include licensees using the following measures:
• financial indicators to assess whether a customer can afford their current gambling spend – possibly using customer-specific data, including but not limited to credit profile information;
• behavioural indicators such as time spent, or intensity of gambling, which licensees can monitor from the outset of the customer relationship; and
• problem gambling self-assessment screens completed by the customers.
The Commission has reiterated throughout the year that progress to minimise harm across the online gambling industry has been slower than they expected, and they believe the proposed policy recommendations will enhance the regulatory framework for online gambling. The current timeframe is that any resulting changes to the licence conditions will take effect in April 2019, so a similar timing to Brexit! Against a backdrop of tighter regulation and stronger enforcements, the consultations provide a good opportunity for online gambling operators to review the policy recommendations and consider the extent to which compliance with the proposed requirements may impact upon their business operations. However cynical operators may be of the likelihood of change during the consultation process, we would encourage operators to respond with a view to at least ensuring that changes to age verification requirements are workable.
It is difficult to resist the main thrust of the changes, which is that age verification should be conducted before players are able to gamble online. Consumers are of course already age verified before they gamble in land based casinos and before they drink in pubs. It was for historic technological restrictions only that there was some leniency in the case of online gambling. In view of the technological advancements since the 72-hour rule was established, it makes sense that regulations should be updated to reduce the risk of underage gambling.
Please click here to take part in the survey.