Gambling Commission CEO, Neil McArthur, issued a reminder on 11 January 2021 on the continued need for online operators to provide their customers with additional protection.
The latest national lockdown, which began on 5 January 2021, is one of the primary reasons for the regulator’s call for extra vigilance. Its reasoning being that:
“Most people will be spending more time at home and many people are likely to be feeling more isolated and vulnerable as a result of the length of the pandemic period, the new restrictions and further uncertainty about their personal or financial circumstances.”
The reasoning also relates fundamentally to operators’ licence requirements under the social responsibility code provisions of the Licence Conditions and Codes of Practice (“LCCP”), Part 3 – Protection of children and other vulnerable persons. This includes helping customers to gamble safely and responsibly by:
- helping customers to not spend more time or money than they can reasonably afford; and
- recognising behaviours which may be indicative of risk or harm.
The other reasons given for the reminder relate to Phases 1 and 2 of the Gambling Commission’s research on the impact of Covid-19 on UK gambling, the evidence of which was published in its National Strategic Assessment 2020. Both phases indicated that:
- consumers, such as highly engaged gamblers who play a range of products, are likely to spend more time and money gambling;
- the continuation of sports provides greater opportunities for betting customers to gamble; and that
- some people may gamble for the first time as a result of the current circumstances.
The Gambling Commission will continue to assess the impact of Covid-19 on gambling and asks online operators in the meantime to:
- Continue following its “additional formal guidance”, in particular, ensuring that close interest is given to data which indicates that customers are expanding their games portfolio and/or spending more time or money than before;
- Interact directly with customers where triggers are reached and increase email engagement with customers more generally;
- Ensure that marketing remains compliant and non-exploitative of the current situation; and proceed very cautiously when cross-selling products;
- Take particular care when on-boarding new customers and carefully consider affordability information and checks, especially in light of any recent or subsequent changes to financial circumstances.
In turn, the Gambling Commission has stated that it will continue to:
- Permanently strengthen regulatory requirements in respect of RTS and LCCP updates to further protect customers; and
- Monitor both operator and consumer behaviour closely as well as conducting compliance assessments during the latest lockdown.