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February 11, 2019
The Gambling Commission says that the new rules, which follow an open consultation, will ensure operators verify customers’ age and identity details faster, which will benefit consumers.
Until now, online gambling businesses have been allowed 72 hours to carry out age verification checks. The operator cannot permit customers to withdraw winnings until age verification has been completed and must return stakes if the person is found to be underage.
Under the new rules, operators must verify customer age before the customer can deposit funds into an account or gamble with the licensee with either their own money or a free bet or bonus.
In addition, the Commission is now also insisting that customers must be age verified before they are able to access free-to-play versions of gambling games on licensees’ websites. The Commission says that while free-to-play games are not technically gambling (there is no prize involved), there is no legitimate reason why they should be available to children.
In March 2018 the Commission announced that some online operators were treating customers unfairly by requesting additional identity information when the customer attempted to withdraw winnings. Around 15% of complaints to its contact centre were about licensees not allowing a customer to withdraw funds until they submitted certain forms of ID.
The new rules require remote licensees to:
- verify, as a minimum, the name, address and date of birth of a customer before allowing them to gamble;
- ask for any additional verification information promptly;
- inform customers, before they can deposit funds, of the types of identity documents or other information that might be required, the circumstances in which the information might be required, and how it should be supplied to the licensee; and
- take reasonable steps to ensure that information on their customers’ identities remains accurate.
The Commission says that the changes will help operators better prevent harm or detect criminal activity because they have more information about their customers. In addition, the changes will mean that operators cannot demand that customers submit ID as a condition of cashing out, if they could have asked for that information earlier.
Finally, the changes will increase the likelihood that someone will be identified if they attempt to gamble while self-excluded. This applies equally to the operator’s own self-exclusion schemes and the online multi-operator self-exclusion scheme, Gamstop. This is because effective verification by operators will mean that a customer will not be verified, and therefore unable to gamble, until they provide correct details. These details will then be checked against both the operator’s own self-exclusion database and the verified data held by Gamstop.
The new rules come into force on 7 May.
The Gambling Commission will shortly be launching a consultation on plans to make explicit its expectations about how to interact with a customer who may be experiencing gambling-related harm and will be calling for evidence on the use of gambling blocking software. To read the Commission’s announcement in full, click here.