March 26, 2020
In these unprecedented times, as we sit at home mastering zoom calls and perfecting our work from home set up, there are many individuals that will now have easier access to online gambling sites throughout the working day. We are already seeing reports of an increase in online slots, poker, casino gaming and virtual sports and the Gambling Commission has today provided a message to online gambling operators in order to ensure that children and vulnerable people are protected from the fact that the risks of harm arising from online gambling have increased as a result of recent events.
Neil McArthur has provided further clarification on three key areas that operators are, more than ever, expected to abide by during these next few months. These are: (1) Consumer protection must be paramount; (2) Marketing must be conducted responsibly; and (3) Compliance with licence conditions and codes of practice.
- Consumer protection must be paramount
It is imperative, that during these difficult times, operators are very mindful that some customers may be vulnerable and experiencing financial uncertainty, whilst others may be experiencing other mental health effects of being isolated which includes, for example, feelings of anxiety, loneliness or boredom. In light of this, the Commission expect operators to act responsibly, increasing interaction where possible; stepping in to communicate with customers and freezing accounts, where needed, if they are showing signs that they are experiencing or at risk of harm.
- Marketing must be conducted responsibly
We published a piece yesterday which highlighted the importance of operators or affiliates not seeking to exploit the current situation in a manner which is inconsistent with the guidelines or the overall spirit of advertising regulation.
In line with section 16 of the CAP Code, references or inferences to: ‘boredom’; ‘something to do whilst not at work’: ‘something to do whilst taking a break from working from home’; ‘supplemental income’; ‘lack of employment’; ‘escaping from the family’; or ‘keeping calm and carry on gambling’ are all flawed and should not be used by marketing teams during these difficult times.
New customers should be on-boarded in a socially responsible way and old customers monitored constantly to ensure that any questionable behaviour is communicated internally with interactions occurring when necessary.
- Compliance with licence conditions and codes of practice
As always, the Commission expects operators to act in a way that minimises the risks to the licensing objectives, always acting in accordance with the licence conditions and codes of practice. Particular attention should be given to the social responsibility code provisions which, amongst others, includes treating consumers fairly and communicating with them in a clear way that allows them to make a properly informed judgment about whether to gamble.
Where the Commission observes an operator acting in an irresponsible way, they have explained that they will step in immediately in order to protect those individuals most at risk. We are, of course, able to review or sense check any material prior to publication or advise on policies during these times. Please feel free to reach out to any member of the team with any of your concerns.