On 23 September 2016, the Gambling Commission held a remote sector stakeholder meeting which was attended by representatives from a number of remote gambling operators. The meeting was chaired by Nick Tofiluk, Executive Director of the Commission, who opened by explaining that the meeting was intended to be a two way discussion between operators and the Commission. This approach did appear to encourage engagement by some of those present who shared issues and challenges presented by some licence conditions and technical standards.
Two areas of particular interest to attendees were the Commission’s recent discussion paper on virtual currencies, eSports and social gaming and the consultation on changes to the remote technical standards.
In relation to the discussion paper, Brad Enright (Senior Manager – Sector and Thematic at the Commission) briefly ran through the emerging products the Commission is considering. He explained that one particular point of interest was regarding participants in eSports betting on themselves. The issue is whether this activity should be licensed as betting or alternatively whether it should be treated as entering a skill competition.
Brad explained that the next step was for interested parties to respond to the Commission by 30 September. Brad later confirmed that if anybody would like to respond but are unable to meet this deadline, they can let the Commission know now that they plan to respond in full at a later date. The Commission will publish its responses to any comments received later on this year, leading to the publication of a position paper. In the interim, the Commission’s position is that those clearly providing facilities for gambling in relation to emerging products without holding a licence will be challenged (as evidenced by the recent prosecution of individuals involved in the futgalaxy website) and a particular concern is the protection of children who may get involved with this type of product. Where products fall into the grey areas under consideration, the Commission may well be less likely to take action but its response will depend on the potential risks to the licensing objectives and particularly to children.
Charlie Martin (Manager – Online Gambling Regulation at the Commission) presented details to the group of the upcoming consultation on changes to the remote technical standards. The consultation is due to be published on 25 October 2016 with responses due by the end of January 2017, and changes will go live later in 2017. Attendees raised a few issues in relation to the technical standards which the Commission appeared to take on board, including the lack of defined terms leading to testing houses taking different approaches even with regard to the same product. The key areas for new and changing requirements are shown in this slide.
Another key point from the meeting was an update from the RGA on the national online self-exclusion scheme. Arrangements for this are progressing with a target date of the end of 2017. Running costs are anticipated to be somewhere between £0.5m and £1m per year and this cost is to be met by remote operators on a tiered fee structure similar to licence fees. Attendees were reminded that the requirement for operators to participate in the scheme (once up and running) is already a social responsibility code provision in the LCCP.
Any operators who did not attend this meeting and would like to take part in the next, which is being planned for May 2017, should contact Jamie Wall at the Gambling Commission.