David Clifton – Licensing Expert – The forthcoming national online self-exclusion scheme

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David Clifton

The principle of self-exclusion is not new. If a person wants to refrain from gambling they can ask a gambling operator – whether land-based or online – to refuse to accept their custom. Before a customer completes a self-exclusion agreement, the significance and implications of their action should be explained to them, including the minimum exclusion duration of six months (the minimum period considered necessary to enable an individual to deal with their problem gambling behaviour).

Once they have self-excluded they should be refused service by the operator concerned for the agreed period of time.

Offering self-exclusion is a requirement of the LCCP for each individual operator licensed by the Gambling Commission but, as matters stand, it is not possible to be prevented from gambling in, for example, all casinos or with all licensed betting operators.

This has resulted in significant criticism by, amongst others, the Responsible Gambling Trust whose report on self-exclusion in relation to both land-based and online gambling highlighted the ease with which consumers can continue to gamble at other venues, sites, operators, sectors or jurisdictions, thereby undermining its effectiveness as a tool.

Last year the RGT’s Operator-based harm minimisation review stated: “we find compelling justification for continuing to explore the opportunities for connecting self-exclusion across venues and operators. This in our view represents a key priority for strengthening self-exclusion and harm minimisation more generally”.

It came as little surprise therefore that in February the Commission:

  • proposed amendments to the LCCP that mean by April 2016 premises-based licensed operators must have in place schemes that allow a customer to make a single request to self-exclude from all operators of a similar type within their area, typically where they live and work, and
  • confirmed that it is working with remote industry representatives to develop a national multi-operator self-exclusion scheme, which should be in place in 2017, in which all licensed remote operators will be required to participate within one month of it being established.

Last month the Commission published a progress report on that proposed national online self-exclusion scheme. It will be seeking views on the draft architecture of the scheme, its estimated cost and how the scheme would be managed and funded through a supplementary consultation in the summer.

Points arising from the progress report include:

  • The introduction of the national scheme is an addition to the current LCCP requirements on operators to self-exclude any individual that requests it, so they will need to continue to administer their own schemes, for those individuals not wishing to join the national scheme;
  • It will remain a requirement for operators to take all reasonable steps to prevent marketing material being sent to a self-excluded customer;
  • The Commission is considering how to ensure that all those participating in gambling offered in reliance on a Gambling Commission licence (regardless of whether they are or are not British resident) will be able to self-exclude via this route; and
  • Whilst in principle it would be desirable to integrate online and non-remote self-exclusion arrangements, such a development is considered to be some way off, due largely to the general absence of account-based play offline.

It is currently expected that the Commission will be the legal owner of the data within the centralised store of self-excluded customers but that a third party will run the actual system.

In terms of cost and performance, it has been thought advantageous to have a two solution approach as follows.

  • Under Solution 1, one group of operators – likely to be larger operators with a significant customer base and an established track record in gambling operations and data security – would be able to access the data (with clear sight access to it rather than it being encrypted) and integrate it into their own systems. The reasoning is that:
    • given the large volume of transactions they would generate, this would avoid the need for these operators to interrogate the central database at every login and registration because the operator will have a local copy of the data
    • it would also reduce the volume of transactions that the central system will need to cope with, reducing cost and improving performance, and
    • it would also give these operators some flexibility in how they comply with the requirement.
  • Under Solution 2, remaining operators would interrogate the central system at each login and registration in real time.

It is proposed that the Gambling Commission:

  • would determine which operators fall within Solution 1 and which within Solution 2, based on a number of factors such as the length of time they have been licensed by the Commission, the anticipated volume of transactions expected to be put through the system and the status of the security audit remote operators are required to complete, and
  • would have access (via third party contractors) to the central database to manage operator details, handle queries and to run Management Information reports based on the information held within the system.

An individual choosing to return to online gambling after their self-exclusion period has expired will need to contact each licensed operator individually, meaning that the individual will have to complete a positive return to gambling process with each operator that they wish to gamble with for a period of seven years following the end of their self-exclusion agreement. In this respect, the operator:

  • would be required to check that the self-exclusion period has expired, based on the data they already hold about the individual that was passed to them using either Solution 1 or Solution 2 when the self-exclusion period commenced and
  • would have to undertake the usual process to confirm the individual wishes to return to online gambling followed by a 24 hour cooling off period where the individual will not be able to access their account.

Such a scheme will not come cheap. It is estimated that the cost of creating it would be in the region of £2 million, with ongoing running costs of approximately £1 million per year. It is also proposed that all such cost will be funded in full by the industry, although the Commission says that “a mechanism will need to be created so that all operators who participate contribute towards the costs in an equitable way”.

The Gambling Commission has invited views on the above to be emailed to [email protected] on the basis that any views received will inform the consultation that it plans to issue in the summer.

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More detail of the proposed scheme and its architecture is contained within the briefing note, which can be accessed via the link at http://cliftondavies.com/gambling-commission-briefing-note-on-the-national-online-self-exclusion-scheme/

David Clifton – Director – Clifton Davies Consultancy

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