March 26, 2018
The Gambling Commission has released its “Review of Online Gambling” as previously promised as part of its Corporate Business Plan published last year. In an attempt to make online gambling safer, new plans have been introduced to protect the most vulnerable in society and improve social responsibility in connection with remote gambling.
The Commission has confirmed that it will undertake consultations on the following potential changes to the LCCP:
- Further protection for children by banning operators from providing free-to-play demo games until a consumer’s age has been determined;
- Improving the speed and effectiveness of age verification processes;
- Ensuring operators set limits on consumers’ spending until affordability checks have been conducted;
- Tackling unacceptable marketing and advertising and unfair terms, and improving complaints and disputes procedures; and
- Strengthening requirements to interact with consumers who may be experiencing, or are at risk of developing, problems with their gambling.
These potential changes will not come as a surprise to many. One might view them as: (i) a logical extension of existing Commission led initiatives involving the CMA and the ASA; and/or (ii) putting existing Commission guidance on a stronger footing with a view to taking action against operators who fail to adhere to relevant standards. Many will argue that the “free-to-play” restriction is a more proportionate reaction to the issue of casino games with a particular appeal to children than the steps taken late last year by the Commission and the ASA (which critics cited as a knee-jerk reaction to a media led agenda).
There are also areas where the Commission will be undertaking further investigation before deciding whether to consult on any changes to the LCCP. These are:
- Assessing the effectiveness of the current tools available to consumers to manage their gambling;
- Reviewing gambling product characteristics to identify whether particular features pose greater risk of harm than others;
- Reviewing requirements on the protection of customer funds and consider whether there are sufficient protections around dormant accounts;
- Consider whether gambling on credit should continue to be permitted; and
- Consider whether we need to make changes to ensure that consumers can withdraw funds more easily.
Again, these areas build on consistent themes which have emerged from the Commission over the last 24 months around fairness and protecting the vulnerable. The use of credit cards is perhaps the issue which will give certain operators the biggest concern, especially in light of the already envisaged enhanced checks on affordability mentioned above. It is, however, easy to see that once the dust settles on the forthcoming decision on FOBTs, the use of credit cards for online gambling could become the next hot topic alongside the proliferation of gambling advertising.
You can read the proposed changes in more detail here