The UK Gambling Commission’s consultation on affordability in gambling has attracted a huge response. The figure of 13,000 respondents may signal a strong push towards stronger regulation on affordability checks.
The consultation closed last week and as of yet, there is no timeline for the response.
Affordability checks should be relatively easy to implement according to the Social Market Foundation, which says that gambling businesses already have enough information to carry them out and that customers will barely notice they are taking place.
A spokesman for the UK Gambling Commission, the UK’s only gambling regulator, said: “We have received around 13,000 responses following our consultation and call for evidence. We are now considering those and will then decide upon the next steps.”
The level of affordability checks and the identification of potential problem gamblers is enormously controversial.
The racing industry, the sport that is probably most closely linked to gambling in the UK, says that the sport could miss out on £100 million a year if affordability check levels were set at a level of £100 a month.
That would mean that gambling businesses would need to check with customers, demanding documentary evidence, that they can afford to lose that amount of money.
The industry is no doubt concerned for its revenue but has also raised the privacy and personal freedom implications of asking customers to prove that they can afford what they spend.
The SMF said a £100-a-month spend should trigger an investigation into a customer using remote gambling services. They would also like a £100 spending limit on players who cannot or will not prove that they can afford to lose more than that.
They say that remote gambling providers already have enough data on customer behaviour and the spending of individual customers to know who is at risk and to carry out sophisticated checks without the customer even knowing.
Their affordability report said: “These checks should be a non-intrusive process, and should be based on the data already held and the customer due diligence processes already carried out by most remote operators on their customers.”
They would also like to create a new regulatory actor in the shape of an ombudsman, who would have access to customer data and would oversee the affordability checks process.
Change is on the way in the UK gambling industry in 2021. A major review of gambling legislation is due to report and there is major public and political pressure for tighter rules. The explosion in internet gambling and the massive visibility of the sector in the shape of football shirt sponsorships have fuelled a spiral of negative stories, many of them extremely tragic.
Already banks have called for better payment blocking systems, and the gambling industry has started to signal that it will welcome regulation while arguing that it must be proportionate. The UK GC recently introduced new limits on how online video slots – the UK’s favourite gambling devices – can operate, taking out features that speed up play or don’t signal losses or time spent on a machine clearly enough.