UKGC opens public consultation on identifying vulnerable customers

The UK Gambling Commission (UKGC) has announced its latest public consultation as it seeks evidence and opinions to form ‘stronger requirements’ with regards to how online licensees identify vulnerable or high-risk customers.

In its statement, the Commission underlined that it will require a diverse range of input from all industry stakeholders – tech, compliance, payment, customer welfare and management – on what it deems to be a critical discipline for the future of UK online gambling.

The Commission stated that it will review proposals that aim to ‘strengthen the expectations’ placed on operating an online gambling business, adding that incumbents need to prove their capacity to identify and register a consumer’s vulnerabilities.

The consultation will also examine which customer thresholds and affordability check requirements should be imposed on licensees and how they should be conducted.  

The detection and improvement of customer conduct assessments had been previously highlighted as an area of ‘urgent action’ by the House of Lords Select Committee researching the ‘Social and Economic Impact of the Gambling Industry’.

During 2020, the Commission issued guidance that operators undertake deeper assessments and regular customer care interventions of players engaging in online gambling during the COVID-19 pandemic – requirements endorsed and self-enforced by industry leadership.

Licensee requirements for engagement with vulnerable players was brought to the forefront of the industry’s agenda last week after the UKGC announced action against BGO Entertainment, GAN Plc and NetBet Enterprises Ltd having identified a number of failures including not doing enough to keep consumers safe, failing to prevent money laundering and criminal spend.

Two of the businesses, BGO and Gan PLC, have had new conditions imposed on their licences and all three will now improve their policies and procedures as well as making payments to progress the work of the National Strategy to Reduce Gambling Harms.  

Tim Miller, UKGC executive director, said: “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. 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.”

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