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What’s next for Affordability?

On Wednesday, the Gambling Minister, Chris Philp, addressed an audience at the annual GambleAware conference in London in which he signalled that “proportionate” affordability checks will be one of the results of the government’s review of gambling legislation. A copy of his speech can be found here.

This will not come as a surprise to anyone in the sector given the Commission is still yet to produce its response to the consultation on customer interaction and affordability (we published some commentary on the Commission’s interim update of this consultation back in May), and the industry awaits the government’s proposals in a hotly anticipated white paper which is likely to shape much of the industry’s activity in 2022.

Those in the sector would have welcomed Philp’s remarks that demanding financial information from customers spending £100 on gambling would be “unwelcome, disruptive and disproportionate”.  This will come as a relief to many operators who have warned that affordability checks triggered by a monthly loss of £100 could lead to regulatory requirements that are not proportionate to the risks they pose and the creation of a black market.

Andrew Rhodes, the UK Gambling Commission’s interim chief executive, said that although affordability checks were a useful tool, of utmost concern to him is the number of reoffending companies which had conceded regulatory settlements rather than being fined. He added: “We are seeing the same companies committing the same offences for second or even third times”.

Rhodes underlined that the Commission had witnessed an intense period of escalating enforcement on compliance in which his department had recovered over £100 million from penalty enforcements and revoked 10 licences.  Rhodes was consistent in his view that punishing bad behaviour by operators is still a key part of the Commission’s job. A copy of his speech can be found here.

Meanwhile, BGC chief executive Michael Dugher said: “We strongly support the government’s gambling review, which highlighted the protection of children and vulnerable people in a fair and open gambling economy as one of the government’s main priorities. We therefore hope that child protection will be front and centre of the forthcoming white paper.”

It is an interesting time for the gambling sector, with many developments in the pipeline, most noticeably the much-anticipated review of the Gambling Act 2005 and the affordability measures that will come with it. For now, all the industry can do is wait until the new proposals are revealed.