The UK Gambling Commission has introduced new rules to ensure online gambling businesses "do more" to identify and take action to protect consumers at risk of harm. The new rules were released Thursday but will come into effect on 12 September 2022.
The regulatory body will start giving operators direct instructions on how to ensure consumers are not harmed, taking a prescriptive approach, instead of leaving it up to them to decide how to do so. Operators will be required to:
New guidance, which operators are required to take account of, will be issued in June to help them understand and comply with the requirements.
UKGC Chief Executive, Andrew Rhodes, said: “Time and time again our enforcement cases show that some operators are still not doing enough to prevent gambling harm. These new rules, developed following an extensive consultation, make our expectations even more explicit. We expect operators to identify and tackle gambling harms with fast, proportionate and effective action and we will not hesitate to take tough action on operators who fail to do so.”
William Hill recently revealed it had set aside £15 million to cover potential costs arising from a review of its licence by the Gambling Commission. If the regulator were to fine the bookmaker that much, it would be the highest penalty ever levied against a British operator.
Online casino 888, which is in the process of buying William Hill, was fined £9.4 million last month over multiple failings that led to customers racking up huge losses during the depths of the Covid pandemic.
The strengthened requirements follow a consultation that was launched to address failings the regulator continued to see among online gambling operators. Although capable of identifying customers who may be harmed by gambling, operators were not always doing so or acting quickly enough, the UKGC noted. It has received approximately 13,000 responses to the consultation and call for evidence.
In the next phase of its program, the UKGC will consult further on identifying customers who are financially vulnerable and tackling significant unaffordable gambling. The regulatory body said further updates will be provided when the consultation launches.
"We will continue to work closely with DCMS and take account of the Government’s Gambling Act Review. Our broader programmes of work, focused on identifying customers at risk of harm will also continue, including close engagement with the BGC and ICO on the ‘single customer view’ pilot," the Gambling Commission anticipated.
During the ICE VOX program last week, Rhodes said that there are novel products that "can and do cause harm," adding that while gambling remains a leisure product in UK law, he identified gambling now as another global tech industry, "like communications or finance," and he noted that tackling harm, crime and fairness in global tech requires an innovative response from regulators.