Insights The Affordability Consultation – a fundamental shift in gambling regulation?

The Gambling Commission (the “Commission”) has now published its customer interaction consultation (the “Consultation”) while at the same time issuing a Call for Evidence on how its revised requirements should be implemented. We’ve been made to wait for this Consultation for some time: now it’s finally here online operators should be in no doubt that this is the most important consultation that the Commission has published in years. The Consultation and Call for Evidence will close on 12 January 2021.

In summary, consumers will continue to be provided with information and tools to enable them to control the amount of time and money they spend gambling; however, primary responsibility for ensuring that their gambling is affordable looks like it will shift from those consumers to operators. If the new rules are implemented as proposed, operators will be required to undertake detailed assessments into the financial circumstances of consumers (so-called “affordability assessments”) when they wish to spend more than the average consumer is deemed to be able to afford (at loss thresholds yet to be defined). Operators will need to take affirmative action (including setting deposit limits and suspending accounts) based on information that is obtained when undertaking these assessments. Such changes are presented as a reinforcement of rules already in place, but, in truth, represent a proposal to fundamentally re-balance the nature of the relationship between operators and their customers.

The Consultation invites discussion on proposals that are wider than just affordability assessments, and includes proposals on other important, but no less thorny, issues like how far operators should be required to go to identify when consumers are more vulnerable to harm[1] and the circumstances in which it is appropriate for operators to take action on behalf of a consumer. We will focus most of our attention in this article on the ‘A-word’, but clearly it is very important that respondents consider the Consultation and Call for Evidence in their entirety.

The Commission’s motivation for the Consultation is rooted in its continued and well-publicised concerns that operators either do not have, or are not implementing, appropriate policies and procedures to interact with customers in a meaningful way. The Commission, criticised in a series of critical reports this summer, has moved to implement minimum affordability standards ahead of the upcoming review of Britain’s gambling laws, which promises to place the issue of consumer protection at centre stage. Instead of allowing operators to determine appropriate thresholds and checks based on their own risk-related assessment of activity, the Commission has instead committed to prescribing exactly when and how affordability assessments must be carried out.

Everyone can agree that the issues in play here are complex. At the core of the Consultation is how the Commission should balance individual freedoms with the need to ensure that vulnerable people are prevented from suffering harm through gambling.

Before providing further commentary on the wider ramifications of the Consultation, we provide a detailed assessment of the proposals as follows.

 Affordability proposals

 We examine below the three key proposals concerning affordability:

  1. The threshold for affordability checks

The Commission proposes that licensees will be required to conduct affordability assessments at thresholds specified by the Commission. The thresholds at which these assessments will have to be conducted will (the Commission says) be based on the evidence supplied in response to the Call for Evidence.

The Commission already requires operators to use deposit and loss thresholds set at “realistic” levels, “based on average available income” when developing their customer interaction policies. However, the Commission has repeatedly expressed its concerns that the current thresholds used by operators to trigger customer interactions are too high and so has moved to set these thresholds itself. In its Call for Evidence, the Commission has invited consumers and wider stakeholders to discuss what an appropriate threshold or thresholds should be.

The Commission does suggest that it would be disproportionate to require customers to undergo affordability assessments for small, infrequent gambling at a level which would be affordable for most of the population, or where it is unlikely to cause financial hardship. It defines a £100 loss per calendar month as “likely” to be the “lowest possible threshold”, notably consistent with the “soft cap” proposed by Dr James Noyes and Jake Shepherd’s report (Gambling review and reform: Towards a new regulatory framework) published in August 2020.

The Commission is also clear in its current view that it does not consider a threshold in excess of £2,000  would be realistic or appropriate, and that the evidence base may point to a threshold considerably below this.

It is curious that the Commission appears to cite, as a potential justification for imposing a threshold at lower levels, the additional requirement that remote casino operators are obliged to apply customer due diligence (“CDD“) measures in relation to transactions that amount to €2,000 or more under the Money Laundering Regulations. Of course, the €2,000 threshold is triggered by linked deposits or withdrawals exceeding that threshold (rather than losses) and, even then, permits operators to apply CDD measures on a risk-sensitive basis. The Consultation proposes a different approach for affordability and remove any discretion for operators to determine when and how affordability assessments should be carried out. The Commission might find that “many operators apply such measures at lower thresholds” not necessarily because their risk-based approach requires it, but because the Commission separately makes it a requirement (under the LCCP) that a customer’s identity is verified before they are permitted to gamble, in large part removing the ability for operators to defer identity verification (which forms a core part of CDD) until the €2,000 threshold is reached.

The Commission’s current thinking on thresholds remains wedded to the idea that any thresholds should be set against population-wide estimates of discretionary or disposable income, which it considers the most relevant way of assessing how much consumers may have to spend before beginning to experience harm as a result of their gambling. It strikes us that using generic, population-level data is likely to be a very imprecise method of identifying when customers might be spending more than they can afford, given the significant variation that will exist between different geographies and demographics. Given that (potentially millions of) customers may be subjected to what will likely be perceived by many as an unprecedented and wholly unnecessary invasion into their financial circumstances (comparable only perhaps in the context of borrowing money – and even then at far higher levels than are contemplated here), it is clearly vital the industry responds quickly to provide evidenced based alternative methods of setting thresholds that can be demonstrably appropriate and effective. Clearly such alternatives may also be used to more effectively identify when customers may be spending more than they can afford at levels even lower than is contemplated.  The principle being promoted by the Commission, namely that an activity, product or service cannot be purchased unless a consumer can evidence their ability to “afford” it, not merely just pay for it, is surely unprecedented. Affordability is, for almost everybody, self-regulating over time.  If I have to borrow to fund my gambling, the financial regulatory system should intervene.  If I steal, the criminal justice system intervenes. That is not to say that operators have no role to play; the question is how far that should go and how imposing on the general player base should it be.

The Commission cites the evidence of its own enforcement cases as justification for imposing mandatory affordability assessments at thresholds supposedly reflecting the discretionary leisure spend available to “average” consumers. Yet the majority of enforcement cases have concerned customers who have been permitted to spend tens, and often hundreds, of thousands of pounds without the appropriate checks being made. It should come as no surprise that the Commission’s compliance activity focuses its attention on operators’ “top” customers (i.e. a statistically insignificant sample of those who have deposited / lost the highest amounts in any given period) on the basis that these customers are likely to present the greatest money laundering risk or to be at the highest risk of harm. The evidence from these cases is that the regulator is all too often confronted by operators whose most valuable customers have gambled in a way that may have been unaffordable without effective action being taken. Yet setting a mandatory affordability check limit at thresholds defined against the “average” customer is likely to impact many clearly not-at-risk customers, who never come close to spending the amounts that have been the subject of enforcement cases. Creating a uniform affordability assessment threshold set at the low levels contemplated could be seen as a disproportionate way of seeking to address the problems that are experienced in these very extreme cases, and it is right that proper consideration should be given to how such measures will impact the vast majority of consumers.

We expect that industry responses to the Consultation may submit that setting blanket, population-wide loss thresholds to determine when affordability assessments should be carried out are counter-intuitive and could lead to inflexibility when applied in practice.  Creating regulation by defining thresholds is usually resisted on the basis they are arbitrary and inflexible, can be “gamed” by individuals who know exactly how to avoid scrutiny regardless of which and how many operators they engage with, and must be reviewed and changed regularly to remain effective and justifiable.

It is unclear (to us at least) how the thresholds will work in practice. Will the Commission introduce a range of different loss thresholds over different periods of time (daily, weekly, monthly, etc.) and, if so, how will these work in practice? Also, the Commission describes them as “thresholds” but does not make clear whether these will operate as spending caps in practice (with a requirement that customers pass an affordability check in order to exceed them). Question 19 of the Call for Evidence suggests that operators may be required to impose a mandatory deposit limit (also called a “handbrake” or “hard stop”) to prevent further gambling unless an affordability assessment has been undertaken showing gambling to be affordable, but it is not clear whether this hard stop will be set at a level equivalent to the loss threshold (in effect, making it a spending cap) or whether the hard stop will be introduced as an additional fail safe measure set at a higher level (and, if so, at what level). It is also unclear to us why any hard stop requirement would be based on deposits, rather than losses, given that its intention is to prevent unaffordable gambling.

  1. The nature of affordability assessments

The Commission proposes to provide a definition of the “affordability assessment” that it will require operators to undertake when loss thresholds are reached. In seeking to provide this definition the Call for Evidence asks: “What information should operators obtain, as a minimum, to satisfy themselves that their customers are not gambling beyond their means?

Any assessment of the proportionality and efficacy of these new measures will need to assess the nature of the affordability assessment in combination with the levels at which the thresholds are set. The more onerous and invasive the enquiries to assess the financial circumstances of consumers, the less justification there is for targeting these sorts of checks at lower levels of spend (and vice versa). One of the key limitations of a blanket, threshold approach to affordability is that it will not permit these types of player safety measures to be calibrated to the true risks that consumers present.

While we expect headlines to focus on where a loss threshold is set, the much more significant impact will be how the Commission defines what must be done by operators when that threshold is reached in order to satisfactorily complete an affordability assessment.

The Commission’s current Customer Interaction Guidance does not say that operators must conduct an affordability assessment when thresholds are reached. Sections are dedicated to affordability and how to spot potentially harmful behaviour when determining when to “interact with customers in a way which minimises the risk of customers experiencing harms”. As the Commission’s own Consultation explains, the concept of interacting with customers can encompass a range of different actions, including generic or tailored messaging, as well as stronger actions like mandating limits or even refusing service. However, it is not obvious that interacting with customers should necessarily involve an affordability assessment, which requires operators to undertake an assessment of someone’s financial circumstances in order to form an objective assessment of that individual’s ability to afford their gambling.

It wasn’t until the Commission published its additional formal guidance on customer interaction (in May 2020 in response to the Covid-19 outbreak) that the Commission formally introduced its expectation that affordability assessments should be carried out when thresholds are reached, though that term remains undefined. The shortcomings of the Commission’s customer interaction guidance were called out in the House of Lords report which cited its “vague wording”,[2].

Anyone wondering what the definition of an affordability assessment might look like need only look at the Commission’s latest Enforcement Report 2020. On page 6, the Commission explains that:

Customers wishing to spend more than the national average should be asked to provide information to support a higher affordability trigger such as three months’ payslips, P60s, tax returns or bank statements which will both inform the affordability level the customer may believe appropriate with objective evidence whilst enabling the licensee to have better insight into the source of those funds and whether they are legitimate or not.

This feels a little like putting the cart before the horse, doesn’t it? Isn’t this exactly what is being consulted on?

The inclusion of such a statement in the Enforcement Report is confusing. At the same time as publishing an in-depth Consultation on the complex issues surrounding affordability checks, the Commission publishes its Enforcement Report suggesting that, before being permitted to spend more than the national average (whatever that is), operators should be asking customers to provide objective evidence that: (i) they can afford their gambling; and (ii) the source of the funds that were used to deposit were legitimate.

The language used also dangerously conflates safer gambling objectives with money laundering risk mitigation. This is not a new development. Output from the Commission frequently purports to require operators to conduct what amounts to enhanced due diligence (“EDD“) on customers at a much lower level than the operator’s own AML risk assessment would otherwise require. We have seen this in the context of high value customers, where the Commission has seemingly now determined that all participants of high value customer schemes must be treated as  higher risk from a money laundering perspective, such that a mandatory source of funds assessment must be satisfactorily carried out prior to admission to such schemes.

Now we have a statement from the Commission citing that anyone who spends more than a few hundred pounds (if we assume that to be the national average) should provide information to allow the operator to assess the legitimacy of their money. This is again at odds with the risk-based approach which lies at the core of AML regulation.

With this continued, confused conflation of safer gambling and money laundering requirements, the Commission could be seen to be eroding the risk-based approach to managing regulatory risk in a material way. Unless the Commission is clearer about how an affordability check differs from EDD, the effect of the Commission’s new requirements are at risk of introducing an EDD obligation (via the affordability check) at a far lower level than the industry’s AML risk assessments would actually require EDD  to occur. It does seem to us that the risk-based approach around money laundering is being continually being eroded and the industry seems to be sleepwalking into an end game which doesn’t follow any risk-based logic.

An entire section of the House of Lords Report published in the summer (which clearly strongly influenced this Consultation) is dedicated to “How to measure affordability”,[3] but does not actually examine the challenges faced by operators in carrying out these assessments. Assessing affordability is inherently difficult and unavoidably subjective. While a minimum standard for an affordability assessment would have the benefit of consistency, doing so in a way that is actually workable in practice is likely to be very challenging indeed. Operators are already acutely aware of how difficult it is in practice to gather enough information on a person’s financial circumstances in order to be able to form a meaningful judgement on what that individual can afford to spend. People are typically reluctant to give up financial information unless it is clear they have to (the Commission invites operators to address this reality by creating “a culture where customers expect consistent checks at set thresholds”). Clearly some information on a person’s income and access to capital is necessary, but an individual’s borrowing position is also clearly relevant (so payday loans, overdrafts, mortgages, consumer credit etc.). Operators would also need access to total consumer expenditure (e.g. on clothing, bills, fuel and other leisure activities, including spend with other operators, etc.) in order to form a reliable view on someone’s true disposable income. That information would also need to be updated regularly to be effective, given that how much a person can afford to spend is bound to vary month to month.[4] Many individuals themselves (even with unfettered access to all relevant information) struggle to reliably assess what is affordable or not for them, and with some justification. It would therefore be challenging, to say the least, for an operator to make that decision for them and, in addition, to tell the consumer that they have made such a decision (without, most likely, providing a reason why).

The Commission envisages that most assessments will be supported by the use of third-party providers (such as credit reference agencies who have supported FCA-regulated business for a long time), which have rapidly been developing affordability solutions adapted for the gambling industry that purport to offer indications or insights into an individual’s financial circumstances. It may be of concern to operators that the effect of a new requirement to conduct prescribed affordability assessments may well be to bake into regulation a requirement that operators use the services of third-party credit reference agencies (and similar). Yet it will be of more concern to operators that the Commission still expects that “it is still likely that operators will need to collect information directly from customers”. The scale and level of the checks that are contemplated by this Consultation would likely require a very significant resourcing investment to be made to undertake these types of checks manually. Of course, the scale and level of the checks won’t be known until the Commission publishes its revised requirements and guidance following this Consultation, which will be the subject of a further “short supplementary consultation” before being implemented. Operators will be holding their breath.

  1. Actions following affordability assessments

If, following an affordability assessment, operators determine that a customer’s gambling is unaffordable, the Commission will require operators to act in a timely way to minimise harm by, for example, setting a tailored deposit limit (the “hard stop” or  “handbrake” described above).

No further indication is given in the Consultation about how operators will determine what an appropriate deposit limit or other action would be, and guidance from the regulator would be welcome. Any assessment of affordability will be specific to a customer’s particular circumstances, though we have seen other regulators (notably the FCA) offer worked examples of good and bad practice as a useful way of demonstrating regulatory expectations. It should be made clear whether the expectation is that any such operator-led deposit limits should be mandatory (for example, based on collected evidence about an individual’s total disposable income or wealth), rather than on any judgement of what proportion of a person’s discretionary or disposable income it is deemed reasonable to spend on gambling, which is clearly fraught with difficulty.

Placing the Consultation in the wider context

While the Consultation looks at the ways in which operators should interact with their customers and how such interactions should be assessed and evaluated, it is undeniable that the Commission’s approach to affordability is getting all the attention from the industry. The concept of affordability first came to prominence in the Commission’s Review of Online Gambling in March 2018 when it stated that:

″operators do not know enough about their customers in an early enough stage of their relationship … [and this has led to] cases where problem gamblers or criminals have gambled sums that were well in excess of what their profile would have suggested was affordable″.

The Commission said that it would “introduce a customer due diligence” requirement to require operators to obtain more information about their customers at an earlier stage. All the way back in early 2018 the Commission was promising to  “consult on requirements that would mean operators had to set limits on players’ spending which could only be increased once they had further verified information about the player, for example via an affordability check”.

The specific incorporation into LCCP 3.4.1 of the formal Customer Interaction Guidance in July 2019 (which came in to force in October 2019) (the “October Guidance”) was the first memorialisation of an affordability-based interaction requirement (although previous guidance had referred to “large losses” as a potential indicator of harm). However, the vagaries around how it was presented have certainly contributed to the criticism levelled at the Commission from a variety of quarters citing lack of clarity around the actual compliance obligation.

In that October Guidance, there were only four short paragraphs which mandated operators to both cease relying solely on deposit and loss thresholds as a way of determining whether customers were experiencing significant harms with their gambling and to set thresholds “appropriately”.

The October Guidance was updated in May 2020, driven by the Commission’s concerns that the pandemic may increase risk for a certain cohort of British gamblers. At the same time, the Commission was in the midst of undertaking compliance assessments, particularly focussing on “high impact operators” (i.e. the largest). These assessments sought to understand the way in which the operators were identifying and then mitigating the risks associated with potentially problematic player behaviour. What was particularly notable from our insight into these assessments and their output, though, was the way in which the Commission found it challenging to properly articulate what an affordability check should actually comprise. Commission officials would review a higher spending customer and conclude, more often than not, that affordability checks were not conducted early enough. But the confusion around what an operator actually needs to do to discharge their general obligation is certainly something the Consultation should clear up.

The “Central Dilemma”

As we prepare for the pending review of our gambling laws, it has been interesting to revisit the previous gambling review, undertaken by Alan Budd in 2001 (the “Budd Report”). This precipitated the current 2005 Gambling Act and one cannot help being drawn towards a number of comments made in the Budd Report, which ring as true today as they did then.

Budd cites the ″central dilemma″ between the “desire to permit free choice and the fear that such choice may lead to harm either to the individual or to society more widely”. The Budd Report advocated ″a move in the direction of allowing greater freedom for the individual to gamble in ways, at times and in places than is permitted under current legislation”.

The central dilemma, as expressed in the Budd Report, remains today and anyone reading the Consultation will be mindful of it. It raises highly pertinent questions as to the purpose of gambling regulation and the extent to which it (and indeed other forms of regulation) should impose upon our lives and restrict the choices that we wish to make.

In the Call for Evidence, which forms part of the Consultation, the Commission is clear that they do not want to enshrine regulation which has what they describe as ″unintended consequences″. The Commission consider the risks of introducing the affordability measures to be “outweighed by the benefits of introducing consistent realistic thresholds at which operators should be understanding more about their customers″. The Commission envisages a ″culture whereby it is accepted that operators assess how affordable gambling is [i.e. beyond] over a certain level″.

With this clear policy statement, the Commission is aligning itself with elements of the approach suggested by Dr Noyes and Jake Shepherd in their report published by the Social Market Foundation  in August (Gambling review and reform: Towards a new regulatory framework). In it they state that ″we believe that individuals should be at liberty to gamble as self-determining agents within a free market. At the same time, if that activity becomes disproportionately more costly than their income allows, making gambling not just affordable but also a precipitant of harm, then it is not unreasonable to suggest that it should be mitigated by the protective influence of regulation″.

And this is the crux of it. How far does the Commission expect the behaviour of not only operators, but also millions of regular and not-at-risk customers which constitute the vast majority of British gamblers to change in order to mitigate the risk that a small, yet vulnerable proportion of customers face?

Unintended consequences

It is notable in the Consultation that the Commission does not consider, at all, the economic impact of its actions on the industry. It is also notable in the recently published National Strategic Assessment that the Chief Executive of the Gambling Commission states that he wants to see ″an end to the distinction between regulatory and commercial considerations”. We often cite the Regulators’ Code 2014, a document which all regulators in the UK need to have regard to and which is incorporated, by reference, into the Commission’s own licensing principles. Notably, in the Regulators’ Code it states that ″when designing and reviewing policies, operational procedures and practices, regulators should consider how they might support or enable economic growth for compliant businesses″.

The idea that a customer, as soon as they spend more than a purported national average disposable income figure in any given month, needs to present to a gambling operator three months’ worth of payslips in order to justify their level of spend, is something that the industry and its customers are simply unprepared for. Whilst the Commission aspires to ″building a culture where customers expect consistent checks at such thresholds″, the impact on the industry’s general customer base urgently needs to be understood.

The unintended consequences of introducing a system which is designed to protect vulnerable individuals who clearly are spending more than they can afford might, the industry would argue, have its reasonable limits. The Commission itself acknowledges this, and in the preamble to the Consultation recognises ″that there is a need to strike the right balance between allowing consumer freedom and ensuring that there are protections in place to prevent gambling that would have an adverse financial and health impact on consumers″.

What this Consultation really needs to bottom out is whether the industry should act when a customer is sustaining levels of spend over a certain amount or when they simply hit a threshold once. Or twice, say. There is a danger that the Commission settles on a threshold of, say, £100 per month and then requires any player that exceeds that amount in any month to go through what amounts to an enhanced due diligence exercise with an operator. Many customers will simply refuse to do that, the industry fears.  If they indeed refuse, they will go to one of two places – either they will go to the black market or, more realistically for the mass market, they will simply stop gambling altogether (or spend less). There are commentators, particularly with a public health interest, who see any reduction in gambling, per se, as an objective to aim for. Surely the Commission cannot hold that view and meet its legal obligation to regulate in an evidence-based and proportionate way while considering how it might support or enable economic growth for compliant businesses?

There needs be a real consideration of an unintended consequence of the Commission’s approach. The Consultation must establish a risk-based approach to the issues at hand, rather than producing a blunt instrument which will, by its very nature, subject large numbers of people to invasive questions from private companies about the detail of their finances, and to make a value judgement about what they can “afford” to spend in one area of their life.

A further consequence of the proposed approach may be to disenfranchise those that cannot evidence that they can afford their gambling to the defined standard, even if they actually can. The Commission does not consider the risk of false negatives. Not everyone receives (or keeps) payslips, bank statements, P60s etc.

The assumption in the Consultation is that the public health risk to an unknown number of people must justify unique levels of intervention and infringement on privacy and personal choice. That is a bold assumption absent compelling data. The question yet to be ascertained is how many people spend more than any proposed threshold, and how many of them will be shown definitely not to be able “afford” it, such that private companies should intervene to prevent them from spending any more.  Unless the industry (and/or the Commission) runs statistically significant sampling exercises enabling it to build that picture, it will not know – and it seems unlikely that can be achieved in the next two months.

The Consultation is essentially seeking to rebalance the relationship between customer and operator. It will shift the responsibility to ensure that gambling remains “affordable” onto the operator. Hitherto, gambling regulation has operated to require operators to identify markers for harm and react appropriately with interaction and intervention. More recently, this has evolved with the industry utilising its data sets to try and anticipate the need to interact, but the general approach remains reactive, rather than proactive. The concept of affordability goes far further, instead no longer requiring a response to activity or behaviour but actually preventing it from happening unless a customer can evidence that they can “afford” it.

Rather than providing customers with information and tools to allow them to control the amount they spend, the new rules reverse the burden and place the onus on the operator to determine whether or not a customer should be allowed to gamble and, if so, how much they should be able to lose. A great difficulty arises as to how an operator arrives at a decision, on behalf of a customer, without access to the full set of data that would be required in order to provide any sort of reliable assessment of someone’s individual financial circumstances. An even greater difficulty may arise in the operator then telling the customer that they have reached such a decision.

The industry needs to ensure its response to the Consultation is built upon hard evidence, which should properly identify and assess the likely impact on all consumers. The Commission has recently been recruiting for the  Lived Experience Advisory Group via social media. It is notable that, in this recruitment drive, the Commission is solely seeking individuals who have suffered at the hands of the gambling industry.  Yet, in the Consultation, the Commission says it is “particularly keen to hear directly from consumers” and that “as part of our engagement with consumers during the consultation, we will release further material to support discussion and enable the broadest possible range of consumers to share their views”.

We think it is critical that the Commission, itself, canvasses the views of a broader spectrum of consumers, and not just those who have suffered harms associated with gambling (whose views are much more likely to favour restrictive consumer protection measures rather than promoting consumer freedoms). For the Commission to strike the right balance and introduce evidence-based and proportionate regulation, it is critical that a broad spectrum of views is sought.

For understandable reasons, the Commission has proactively sought the views of those with lived experience of gambling-related harms. But they represent a very small minority of the British gambling public. It is not apparent, to us at least, that anything like the same vigour has been shown towards seeking the views of the millions of consumers that have suffered no such harms, and who now face being asked to share highly sensitive personal data if they wish to continue gambling above an imposed threshold. We have not seen any output from the Commission where it seeks views from the wider customer base who enjoy gambling products and services on a regular basis, and who do so without experiencing any harm.

Appropriate timing?

The succession of reports earlier this year, from the APPG, the House of Lords and the Committee of Public Accounts of the House of Commons, together with an array of negative coverage from the media as well as from a number of its own experts by experience, has seen the Commission kicked and kicked some more. It is with that backdrop that the Commission’s Chief Executive gave his annual address to the Raising Standards conference. In that, he states that the Commission would “not be taking our foot off the accelerator whilst the review takes place.  We are making progress in lots of areas and we must continue to work together to make gambling safer”.

The Commission has its own statutory obligation to uphold the licensing objectives and may have concluded that it cannot wait for the upcoming review of the Gambling Act and needs to act regardless. However, the Commission has embarked upon a Consultation and Call for Evidence that cuts right to the heart of the way in which gambling should be regulated in Great Britain, at a time when it knows that the review of the gambling laws is imminent. Although the subject of this Consultation and Call for Evidence will comprise just one part of the gambling review, it is a significant part, and one that will impact on many other areas given its fundamental reshaping of the consumer-operator relationship. Consequently, it may be particularly difficult for the industry to accept that the Commission should make a move at this stage to enshrine into regulatory obligation a set of concepts and requirements that require a much more philosophical and strategic assessment of the purpose of gambling regulation generally in Great Britain, particularly with such an assessment imminent.


The full Consultation and Call for Evidence can be accessed here and closes on 12 January 2021.

[1]somebody who, due to their personal circumstances, is especially susceptible to harm, particularly when a firm is not acting with appropriate levels of care.”

[2] Paras 323 to 325

[3] Para 318

[4] In recognising this challenge the Call for Evidence asks “How long should an affordability assessment remain valid before a periodic re-assessment, and what circumstances should prompt a review by exception?