Gambling Commission to ban marketing to at-risk customers

| By Robert Fletcher
Great Britain’s Gambling Commission has announced a series of new rules related to interactions with consumers at risk of gambling-related harm.

The rules are due to come into effect on 12 September this year, with licenced operators to be given guidance in June to ensure they fully understand the changes and that they are in compliance with the new rules ahead of their implementation.

From September, operators will be required to monitor a specific range of indicators, as a minimum, to identify gambling harm or potential problem gambling among their customers. 

These indicators will include customer spend, patterns of spending, time spent gambling, customer-led contact, use of gambling management tools, account indicators and already-established gambling behaviour indicators.

Licensees must also flag indicators of harm and take action in a timely manner, as well as implement automated processes for strong indicators of harm.

Other new rules that will come into effect later this year include preventing marketing and the take-up of new bonuses for at-risk customers, as well as evaluating their interactions and ensure they interact with consumers at least at the level of problem gambling for their relevant activity

The Commission also said operators must provide evidence of their customer interaction evaluation to the regulator during routine casework, as well as ensure their compliance, and that of any relate third parties, with the new rules at all times.

“Time and time again our enforcement cases show that some operators are still not doing enough to prevent gambling harm,” Gambling Commission chief executive Andrew Rhodes said. “These new rules, developed following an extensive consultation, make our expectations even more explicit.

“We expect operators to identify and tackle gambling harms with fast, proportionate and effective action and we will not hesitate to take tough action on operators who fail to do so.”

Confirmation of the new roles follows a consultation that was launched to address failings the Commission continued to see among online gambling operators. The regulator said operators were capable of identifying customers who may be harmed by gambling but were not always doing so or acting quickly enough.

The consultation and subsequent call for evidence attracted approximately 13,000 responses, all of which the Commission said were carefully considered before the new rules were drafted.

The Commission said it would continue to make online gambling fairer and safer, with the next stage of the programme to include consulting further on identifying customers who are financially vulnerable and tackling significant unaffordable gambling.

Further work will focus on other areas such as unaffordable binge gambling and significant unaffordable losses over time, as identified in the consultation. 

“We will also take account of the government’s current Review of the Gambling Act 2005 and continue to support a broader programme of work to support identification of customers at risk of harm,” the consultation said.

“This includes support the piloting of a ‘single customer view’ to identify harm across gambling businesses, to be trialled and the impact evidenced by the industry drive the industry to collaborate on best practice to implement these new requirements and beyond.”

The consultation on the topic of interaction had initially also included a proposal for a mandatory affordability threshold, with a suggested figure of £100 per month. However, the Commission later removed this from its action points on the topic.

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