Volume: 17 Issue: 4
Great Britain’s Gambling Commission published its ‘Review of online gambling’ on 26 March 2018, which includes new plans to make gambling online safer. The Commission will consult on a set of policy actions where it believes there is already a “strong case for action,” which includes potential changes to the Licence Conditions and Codes of Practice (‘LCCP’) relating to age verification, customer due diligence, unfair terms advice, and customer interaction. The Commission has also identified areas in which further work is needed to assess whether action by the Commission is necessary.
The four policy actions to be taken by the Commission are described in more detail in the Review as follows: (1) that the Commission will consult on amending the LCCP to require age verification to be completed on all consumers before they can deposit money and gamble, and for play-for-free games to be available only after age verification is completed; (2) that it will consult on introducing a customer due diligence requirement so that operators have more information about their customers at an earlier stage. The Commission will also consult on requirements that would mean operators have to set limits on players’ spending which could only be increased once they have further verified information about the player; (3) that the Commission will publish guidance for operators and ADRs on unfair terms, and provide more information on where consumers should go if they have been treated unfairly; and (4) that the Commission will consult on amending the LCCP customer interaction requirement.
“One of the key proposals is to bring forward the time at which an operator must identify customers and verify their age,” comments Melanie Ellis, Senior Associate at Harris Hagan. “Most operators already identify and verify players (including completing age verification checks) as soon as they deposit funds, however the minority of operators who use the ‘threshold’ approach to customer due diligence will be affected by the proposals. Requiring age verification before customers can take part in play-for-free games will have a significant impact on most operators. The point of free play games is to offer a ‘try before you buy’ and this would be taken away if customers must make the commitment of registering their details with the operator before trying out their games.”
The five areas where the Commission commits to undertaking further work before deciding as to whether to consult on changes to the LCCP are described as: (1) the need to assess the effectiveness of current consumer protections; (2) the need to review game and product characteristics to identify whether particular features pose greater risk of harm than others; (3) the need to review the current requirements on the protection of customer funds and consider whether there are sufficient protections around dormant accounts; (4) the need to consider whether gambling on credit should continue to be permitted; and (5) the need to consider whether changes to the LCCP are necessary to ensure that consumers can withdraw funds more easily. Ellis comments in reaction to the Commission’s consideration about whether gambling using credit cards should continue to be permitted, “This does not seem particularly well thought through, given the reliance on the use of credit cards for age verification purposes.”