Following advice from the gaming authority’s expert advisory groups

UKGC forms working groups to tackle challenges in race towards safer gambling 

"If rapid progress is not made, then we will have to look at other options as making gambling safer for consumers is paramount," said Gambling Commission chief executive Neil McArthur.
2020-01-20
Reading time 4:32 min
The three industry working groups will be led by senior industry leaders and were designed to tackle three challenges set by the commission to raise standards and reduce harm across the sector: high-value customer incentives, advertising online, and responsible product design.

Following the advice received from both the Advisory Board for Safer Gambling (ABSG) and the Digital Advisory Panel (DAP) the UK Gambling Commission has set three challenges to the industry to accelerate progress to raise standards and reducing gambling harm. The challenges are to address Advertising Technology, Responsible Game Design, Incentivisation of high-value customers (VIPs).

In an attempt to tackle these challenges, the commission announced last week a first-of-its kind initiative: the formation of three industry working groups that would help raise standards and reduce harm across the sector.

Led by senior leaders in the gambling industry, the three collaboration groups will focus on game and product design, advertising technology and high-value customer incentives to gamble. SG Gaming and Playtech have committed to leading work on producing an effective Industry Code for Product Design, while Sky Betting and Gaming will oversee the Advertising Technology working group. The third group, which will address issues around VIP inducements to gamble, will be led by GVC. All three groups will work closely with the Betting and Gaming Council.

"Consumer behavior and technology are changing so quickly that only a bold and innovative approach will allow us to achieve a reduction in the numbers of people experiencing, or at risk from, gambling related harm," said Gambling Commission chief executive Neil McArthur. "I’ve been encouraged by the willingness of so many operators to work with us on these challenges. We’ve set a demanding timetable for progress because we cannot proceed at the speed of the slowest. If rapid progress is not made then we will have to look at other options as making gambling safer for consumers is paramount."

Safer products

The industry code for responsible product and game design working group will set out how the gambling industry can produce safer products in the future, the techniques to use when designing apps, online games and gaming machine products, the risks associated with each product and how they can be mitigated, and a clear explanation of what is not acceptable.

Safer advertising online

An interim report by Gamble Aware from earlier this year shows that children, young people and vulnerable adults report they are being exposed to significant levels of online gambling adverts - including via social media. The Advertising Technology challenge will therefore explore and quickly accelerate opportunities to reduce the amount of advertising seen by children, young people and vulnerable adults.

Use of VIP incentives

The incentivization of high-value customers working group will help ensure bonuses, hospitality and gifts in particular around VIP programs, are offered in a manner that is consistent with the licensing objectives to make gambling fairer, safer and crime-free. The Commission’s casework has found evidence that the approach of some licensees has exacerbated at-risk behavior and this new group will identify how existing rules can be strengthened.

This approach utilizes the skills and resources of the industry but ensures the Commission retains control of outputs – and consequently the best progress for British consumers.

The Gambling Commission announced in October that it would launch an industry-wide challenge to find a technology solution to creating a single customer view that would protect gamblers who gamble with more than one company. The Commission will be working with the Information Commissioners Office (ICO) and a kick-off event will be taking place in Birmingham in February for industry and technology providers.

Independent advice to reduce online gambling harm

The UKGC commissioned advice from both the Advisory Board for Safer Gambling (ABSG) and the Digital Advisory Panel (DAP) to look at reducing gambling harms online.

The recommendations, made in papers from each of the expert groups, include developing a better understanding of the link between game design and gambling harms, trialing new approaches to harm education through evaluation and information sharing and engaging with consumers who have gambled online to understand their experiences and help drive change.

"We regulate an industry which is innovative and evolving quickly in response to changes in technology and consumer behavior and our work with both expert advice groups will guide and influence our regulatory approach," Neil McArthur, Chief Executive said in response to this advice. "The advice from our expert groups reinforces our view that small and gradual improvements by the industry are simply not enough to keep pace with the emerging risks and opportunities presented by online gambling. Only a bold and innovative approach will allow us to achieve the reduction in the numbers of people experiencing or at risk from gambling harm and this is why, following both sets of advice, we have set tough challenges to the industry which we must see progress on by Spring 2020."

Andy Payne, Chair of the Digital Advisory Panel, said: "I am delighted and honored to be working with the Commission in this capacity. The evolution seen across the gambling industry, specifically online gambling, over the last decade has been significant and we hope the collective intel and experience of the panel will support the Commission's work in reducing gambling harm and ensuring consumers remain protected."

Dr Anna Van Der Gaag, Chair of Advisory Board for Safer Gambling said: "We welcome the Commission’s publication of our advice. We identified significant gaps and weaknesses in the current system which, unless addressed, will result in continuing harms from gambling activity and give rise to further public concern. Involving people with lived experience is an essential part of this, along with more robust requirements of operators to be much more proactive and transparent in demonstrating how they are addressing harms from online activity in particular."

The Advisory Board for Safer Gambling provide independent expert advice with the aim of achieving a Great Britain free from the consequences of gambling-related harms.  

The Digital Advisory Panel, which was established a year ago by the Commission, advises on ways to manage harms posed by online gambling platforms, meeting on a regular basis to discuss upcoming digital trends.

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