HomeInsightsGambling Commission publishes new guidance for online operators to protect consumers during lockdown

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The guidance is aimed at ensuring that consumers are further protected following the publication of new evidence that shows some gamblers may be at greater risk of harm during lockdown. Included in the guidance is the need for affordability checks, prevention of reverse withdrawals and restrictions on bonus offers.

The new guidance follows publication by the Commission of data showing the impact that Covid-19 is having on consumers and the industry so far (click here to access). Collected through the gambling industry and also through YouGov surveys, this data shows that during lockdown gambling participation is down overall. This reflects the closure of land-based venues and the cancellation of sporting events, with only a small number of people starting to gamble for the first time.

However, the data shows that, while there is no evidence to suggest an increase in problem gambling, the shift in the market as a result of Covid-19 evidence shows an increase in the use of certain gambling products, such as online slots, poker, casino gaming and virtual sports.

The majority of those gambling indicate that they have not increased the time or money they have spent, two thirds (64%) of more engaged gamblers reported that they have increased the time or money that they are spending on at least one online gambling activity including National Lottery products. The data also shows that in terms of time spent gambling, while overall session length has decreased, there has been an increase in the number of sessions that are played for over an hour.

The Commission has therefore reviewed its current guidance in light of the risks that some players may be experiencing harm while in lockdown, and online operators must now take account of the Commission’s additional guidance, which makes clear they should:

  • prevent reverse withdrawal options for customers until further notice;
  • cease to offer bonuses or promotions to all customers who are displaying indicators of harm;
  • interact with customers who have been playing for an hour in a single session of play;
  • review thresholds and triggers for new customers to reflect the operator’s lack of knowledge of that individual’s play and spend patterns;
  • conduct affordability assessments for individuals picked up by existing or new thresholds and triggers which indicate consumers experiencing harm, limiting or blocking further play until those checks have been concluded and supporting evidence obtained; and
  • implement processes that ensure the continual monitoring of their customer base, identifying patterns of play, spend or behaviours have changed in recent weeks.

Online operators will be expected to make changes to act on this guidance “as soon as possible”. The Commission says that it will bring forward plans to consult on whether further targeted player protection measures are required on a permanent basis. To read the Commission’s announcement in full and to access the guidance, click here.