Tuesday, 3 November 2020

UKGC Launches Consultation For Tighter Casino Operator Requirements


The UK Gambling Commission (UKGC) has announced the launch of a brand new consultation on tighter requirements for online casino and gambling operators.

The organisation, which regulates offline and online gambling across the United Kingdom, is issued a call for views from within the industry, from consumers, and from stakeholders on whether tighter restrictions should be imposed on gambling operators, requiring them to work harder to identify customers at risk of gambling harm and to interact with vulnerable consumers and take action to prevent said harm.

In the news post announcing the consultation, the UKGC calls for feedback on proposals that strengthen the expectations on gambling businesses to act on information they possess about a customer’s vulnerability and to conduct assessments on whether a customer’s gambling is affordable against thresholds set by the UKGC.

The UKGC is also calling for evidence on what these thresholds for affordability checks should be and what the nature of these checks should involve.

Tim Miller, the Executive Director of the UK Gambling Commission, said in a statement: “Whilst some operators have continued to improve their customer interaction processes, our evidence shows that many online operators are not setting thresholds for action at appropriate levels.

“They are not taking the appropriate action or acting quickly enough when they do identify risks of potential harm. We are clear on the need for gambling companies to take further action and that the Commission must set firm requirements to set consistent standards.”

He continues: “But we want to have an open discussion with the gambling industry, consumers, people with lived experience and other stakeholders, to ensure we strike the right balance between allowing consumer freedom and ensuring that there are protections in place to prevent gambling harm.”

The news comes after the UKGC launched an open consultation in July for changes to online video slots. According to the Commission, the consultation focused on making video slots safer for vulnerable players, and proposals included implementing a minimum spin speed of 2.5 seconds, and removing boost and split-screen features.

The changes were implemented in early October following the consultation and were backed by the Betting and Gaming Council (BGC). The new code of conduct operators and developers must follow now includes the proposed minimum spin speed and bans on the turbo and multi-play features.

As we reported last month, the new rule changes also required casino operators to conduct additional mandatory checks on customer activity to identify any potential signs of gambling harm and to interact with them.

The Betting And Gaming Council’s Lockdown Plea

The news comes as the Betting and Gaming Council have urged the UK Government to allow all brick-and-mortar casino venues and betting shops to re-open when England’s lockdown ends on December 2nd.

As reported by CasinoBeats, the organisation has called on the Government to follow a “science-led approach” while reiterating that there was no evidence that gambling venues including betting shops had contributed to the sharp spread of the COVID-19 virus, particularly after casino venues were praised for implementing anti-COVID measures.

BGC Cheif Executive Michael Dugher has issued a statement on the upcoming closures of all casinos and betting shops in England as part of the new lockdown, and has praised Rishi Sunak’s extension of the furlough scheme but has stressed that gambling venues will need to re-open immediately after lockdown ends to contribute to the UK’s economy and keep the industry alive.

He said: “Nothing matters more to our industry than the safety of our staff and customers, which is why we want to contribute to the national effort to defeat this virus. We also welcome the support for businesses forced to close under the second lockdown. But when we exit this, the Government must have a science-led approach and avoid the arbitrary and unnecessary decisions that led to random closures of casinos and betting shops, which damage employment and revenues to the Exchequer.”

He continued: “At a time when there is widespread despair among sporting bodies, the Government also needs to recognise that a healthy betting industry is vital to the funding of sport, and that betting shops, in particular, are critical to the financing of horseracing.”

Scotland’s Tier Restrictions

The BGC’s plea comes after it issued and several casino bosses issued a warning for Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon that hundreds of Scots’ jobs will be put at risk if casino venues are forced to shut in the country under Level 2 COVID restrictions.

In a letter to Sturgeon, John O’Reilly, the boss of Rank Group, backed by others from the industry and the BGC called on Sturgeon to remove casinos from Level 2 restrictions and allow them to re-open or risk the jobs of around 700 people across Scotland’s 11 casinos.

O’Reilly pointed out in his letter that of the 400,000 customers who visited casinos in the UK, only two were rested positively for Coronavirus and neither of which occurred in Scotland. “Our venues are indisputably Covid-secure,” O’Reilly says before asking, “Why must they therefore close in Level 2 whilst other hospitality industries can remain open?”

He added: “I write to you utterly confused as to why our venues must close in Level 2, extremely worried on behalf of thousands of my Rank colleagues who now face enormous job insecurity in Scotland which need not be the case, and in the hope that even at this late stage, you will follow the evidence.

“If we are treated in line with other areas of hospitality, we will be able to protect jobs, safely give Scottish customers something to be cheerful about, and play a full part in Scotland’s economic recovery.”

Michael Dugher backed O’Reilly’s letter, saying: “Casinos have been operating safely since August. The simple fact is there is no evidence that they contribute to the spread of Covid, so closing them makes no sense – especially when other parts of the hospitality sector in Scotland are being allowed to stay open. I would urge the Scottish Government to think again, allow casinos to operate safely and make a vital contribution to the UK’s economic recovery.”