Influential law firm Mishcon de Reya has criticised the UK’s Gambling Commission for changes to its responsible gambling measures, in light of the pandemic, without consultation with the industry.
The lawyers said in a statement that the new provisions set out by the commission would present "operational challenges" to the industry in order to implement them. Normally, changes to the LCCP (Licence Conditions and Codes of Practice) are not made without three months’ notice. The commission would normally be expected to consult with the industry in advance.
This was not done, says Mishcon, despite the clause in the Gambling Act that demands advance warning and consultation.
The commission has amended the guidance rather than the wording of the regulation. Mishcon says the fresh guidance should be taken into account rather than being mandatory. “However, the measures set out certainly read like a set of code provisions and we anticipate that in its compliance and enforcement activity, the commission is likely to consider these measures to be requirements rather than mere expectations.”
The commission’s additional responsible gambling measures demand that operators review thresholds and triggers used to track vulnerability to ensure that they reflect changed financial circumstances that many consumers will be experiencing (in the pandemic). It requires that these warning signs should be reset on a precautionary basis to watch for increased time spent at play or increased spend.
The operators should also review their time indicators to capture play in excess of one hour. They should also set additional or modify existing thresholds for new customers to reflect the operator’s lack of knowledge of the individual’s play and spend patterns.
The commission also wants processes to be put into place to continually monitor the customer base, identifying customers whose patterns of play, spend or behaviours have changed recently.
Affordability assessments for people picked up by the thresholds should be in place to detect potential harm and possibly limit or block further play until the checks have been made.
Operators must also prevent reverse withdrawal options for customers until further notice and stop bonus offers or promotions to customers displaying indicators of harm.
Said the law firm: “Many will view these measures as further evidence of a strident regulator imposing more and more onerous restriction in the absence of evidence of increased problem gambling.
"However, the commission has long adopted a precautionary approach and while different interpretations can be made, the data does suggest increases in length of play and spend on certain products in some categories of consumer.
"For the time being, licensees should take steps to implement the new measures. In the current political climate and in the interests of potentially vulnerable consumers, the industry needs to continue to act responsibly and be seen to be doing so.”