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Frequently Asked Questions for gambling businesses during Covid-19

Published:
23 September 2020
Updated:
23 February 2021
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As the situation with Covid-19 continues to impact daily life in Great Britain, the Commission is following Public Health England guidance and we have told all staff to work from home until further notice.

Postal applications and Covid-19

We ask that people do not send in any company related documentation by post. Instead, documents should be scanned and sent in via email to your Account Manager (if original documents are required). Many relevant company related documents will already be PDFs of electronic documents so please continue to provide these by email.

If you have already posted an application or supporting documents to us and are waiting for a response please email licensing@gamblingcommission.gov.uk.

Applications are a priority for Licensing and although our teams are working from home, we have set up steps and processes to ensure we can process applications should anyone fall ill or become unable to work.

We will work hard to continue a good level of service, but please do bear with us should we experience increased levels of absence.

How can I make a licence application?

We ask businesses and individuals to make applications online where they can. All applications can be made online apart from:

  1. Change of Corporate Control applications
  2. Operating Licence Variation applications which do not include adding/removing an activity or changing a fee category.

If the application cannot be made online or you want to send supporting documents to us, we are currently unable to deal with post. Please therefore scan and email documents to licensing@gamblingcommission.gov.uk.

Your contact details and invoicing

We are currently sending invoices by email rather than post using the primary contact email address. If this email address has changed, you can tell us about this online via eServices (opens in new tab).

My employer has closed down

We know that, regrettably, many people have been temporarily or permanently laid off from their jobs because of this unprecedented situation. The following information is to assist Personal Licence holders and those holding Annex As.

Personal licence holders

If the decision by your employer is to close the business, either permanently or temporarily, your personal licence remains active because it is not linked to your employer’s operating licence.

If you decide to seek alternative employment within the gambling industry in a role that requires a personal licence, please update your personal contact details via the Manage your personal licence service. (opens in new tab). This is particularly important if your email and phone contact details relate to your previous employer.

If you are unable or no longer wish to remain employed in the gambling industry, you can surrender your personal licence via the Manage your personal licence service. (opens in new tab).

If your email address has changed since you were granted your licence and you have not informed the Commission, you will need to email licensing@gamblingcommission.gov.uk with your new email address so that we can update this before you sign in to the Manage your personal licence service (opens in new tab).

Approved Annex As

If your employer has been required to close the business temporarily, and you remain employed by the operator, your approval remains in place whilst you wait for your employer to become operational again.

If the decision by your employer to close down the business is permanent and you have not found employment with another operator, your Annex A will no longer be approved.

Should you find alternative employment in the industry your approval remains in place, however if this after a period of absence, please contact us to discuss, as you may need to go through the approvals process again.

Important information for all pl maintenance and annex a

Checking of identity documents

Please do not post original identity documents to the Commission as our offices are closed. If possible try and use third party services for example solicitors, lawyers, notaries or your employer to verify identity documents.

If this is not possible, take a photo of your documentation using your mobile phone and email the Licensing Department at licensing@gamblingcommission.gov.uk, clearly referencing your application or account number so that we can link your documents to your application.

If your original documents were submitted by post as part of a licence application, and you have copies of these documents, please scan the copies and send them into us by email, to your Account Manager if you have one, or else to licensing@gamblingcommission.gov.uk.

If you do not hold copies of your posted documents, please scan and email alternative documents in order for us to carry out our necessary checks. See the approved list of documents you can send (opens in new tab).

Processing of criminality checks

Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) or Disclosure Scotland (DS) forms

If you have received a DBS or DS form from us to complete, you will need to post it to back to the Commission and we will send it on to the Disclosure and Barring Service or Disclosure Scotland when we return to the office.

Licensing will undertake the DBS or DS check at a later date, once we are back in the office and able to issue the required forms. If we find that you have a conviction that would have led us to refusing your application or revoking your licence, then we will:

  • use Section 342 of the Gambling Act to remove your licence if you did not declare the conviction in your application; or
  • undertake a Section 116 review of your licence with a view to revoking it.

Your application will be processed as outlined previously.

Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) or Disclosure Scotland (DS) certificates

If you have received your criminal record check certificate, take a photo of all pages of the certificate and email this to your account manager, if you do not have these details you should send to the Licensing Department at licensing@gamblingcommission.gov.uk clearly referencing your application number or account number so that we can link it to your application.

Overseas police reports

Overseas police reports (and translations) should be uploaded into the relevant application service as normal. If you are unable to upload the document to your application, email it to your account manager. If you do not have these details you should send to the Licensing Department at licensing@gamblingcommission.gov.uk clearly referencing your application or account number.

If you are unable to provide a necessary police report, please email your account manager. If you do not have these details you should send to the Licensing Department at licensing@gamblingcommission.gov.uk with an explanation and this will be dealt with on a case by case basis. Remember to include a reference to your application or account number.

Fees information

Land-based operators

The Gambling Commission recognises the current unprecedented Covid-19 circumstances leaves the affected sectors facing uncertain and unsettling times with the closure of premises.

We received enquiries asking for a reduction in fees or the option to pay by instalments. Unfortunately, due to the way that our fee system is structured we are not able to offer either of these options.

One option for reducing the fee would be for licensees to apply to decrease their fee category given the reduction in gross gambling yield (GGY). Actioning this at the earliest opportunity will reduce the annual fee. You must submit the application as soon as possible and before the annual fee becomes payable.

You can use the fee calculator (opens in new tab) on our website to work out the reduced annual fee.

Operators may also wish to consider applying to make a change to their existing licence (opens in new tab) for example moving to a remote licence.

Given the uncertain nature of the length of this crisis, some operators may feel they have no option but to surrender their licence. If a licence is surrendered the annual fee will no longer be payable. To surrender a licence, email your Account Manager directly or send your email to licensing@gamblingcommission.gov.uk

Personal Licence holders – maintenance fees

If your maintenance fee is due for payment and you wish to retain your licence, please pay the fee online via the Manage your personal licence service. (opens in new tab).

We know that many people have been temporarily or permanently laid off from their jobs because of this unprecedented situation. Should you choose to do so you can surrender your licence online using the link above and the maintenance fee will no longer be payable.

If a business or individual is not able to pay the fee, this will lead to the revocation of the licence.

Can I vary the terms of my licence?

An application to vary your licence can be made on the make changes to your licence (opens in new tab) page on our website.

A reminder for online operators

The social distancing measures that are being put in place will mean that more people will be at home and we would like to remind online operators that they must continue to act responsibly, especially in regards to individual customer affordability and increased social responsibility interactions.

As a reminder, we expect licensees to:

  • Assess individual affordability on an ongoing basis – customers may be experiencing disrupted income. (Social Responsibility code 3.4 refers to our guidance - ‘Customer interaction- formal guidance for remote gambling operators’ (PDF opens in new tab)
  • Increase social responsibility interactions and intervene where customers are showing signs of gambling-related harm
  • Onboard new customers in a socially responsible way and not exploit the current situation for marketing purposes
  • Refresh the information they have on customers regularly
  • Review the levels which trigger interaction for AML and SR
  • Ensure that your gambling products have been tested by a test house before they are released to the market.

You can read a letter sent by Chief Executive Neil McArthur to online operators on 25 March 2020.

Continuing our compliance assessments

We are continuing to undertake our compliance activity and assessments remotely.

Gambling Commission reminder to all licensed casinos: furloughed Nominated Officers

The Gambling Commission recognises the major impact the current unprecedented Covid-19 crisis is having on affected sectors with the closure of premises. We are aware you are facing uncertain and unsettling times and dealing with significant challenges impacting your businesses, your customers and your employees.

Following engagement with the Industry about an emerging risk, we appreciate that part of your management of these challenges may include the furloughing of your staff. The Commission would like to remind casino businesses that during this time, compliance with the Money Laundering, Terrorist Financing and Transfer of Funds (Information on the Payer) Regulations continues to apply, particularly Regulation 21 regarding Nominated Officers. If operators are engaging in the furloughing of staff please ensure you notify the Commission of who will be undertaking Nominated Officer responsibilities within 14 days of any appointment changes through our key events portal.

See our website, specifically the AML hub, for further details.

How do Test Houses continue to meet their audit obligations if locations cannot be visited as normal?

If necessary, audits can be completed in two stages. The first stage can be conducted remotely, with all controls to be assessed. As part of this the auditor should make clear within the audit report the scope of the audit and the methods to be used (such as video conferencing, using tools such as Skype or Zoom) and the measures in place to mitigate any risks.

The second stage, and in addition to the first stage process, the auditor must provide assurances that an onsite visit will be conducted once travel restrictions are lifted. We would expect a report in the usual manner for the Commission to review and store on the account. When the next annual audit is due we will then compare both reports and review onsite inspection areas.

Delaying lottery draws as a result of Covid-19

Societies conducting raffles may feel that they need to delay the draw date – in which case they must take steps to notify the public of the new date. They should publish this fact to players by as many methods as reasonably practicable, such as a letter/email/phone call to supporters, placing information on their website and contact all those who have received tickets in the post or have already purchased tickets.

Can a lottery draw be conducted digitally instead if someone isn’t present physically to conduct the draw?

All societies must be able to demonstrate that the drawing of the lottery is conducted fairly and equally, and if requested, are able to demonstrate to the Commission that the draw was completely random. Society lottery operators should ensure they are familiar with the requirements before making any changes.

If I am running a small local authority-licensed society lottery, am I able to change the draw date due to current restrictions?

For small society lotteries, there is the requirement to have the draw date on the ticket or explanation of how the draw date will be determined. If a small society was to change the draw date, you are only required to ensure players are notified. You could also switch from non-remote to remote ticket sales without needing extra permissions, unlike Gambling Commission-licensed society lotteries where the appropriate licences must be held. A local authority registration permits both remote and non-remote sales.

Customer Interaction – additional guidance during Covid-19

This Covid-19 guidance builds on the Customer interaction - formal guidance for remote gambling operators (PDF opens in new tab) that we published in July 2019, specifically Social Responsibility Code Provision 3.4.1. The following explains how to use this customer interaction guidance.

How to use the customer interaction guidance

The purpose of this guidance is to share knowledge based on research, current practice and lessons learned in order to support licensees in determining how they can meet the outcomes. It sets out why customer interaction is important and makes our expectations clear. Not all of the content of the guidance will be relevant to all operators, but licensees must take it into account and be able to demonstrate how they have done so.

How the Commission will use this guidance

For compliance and enforcement purposes, we will expect licensees to demonstrate how their policies, procedures and practices meet the required outcomes. This can be through implementing relevant parts of the guidance or demonstrating how and why implementing alternative solutions equally meet the outcomes.

Our understanding of gambling harms and how they manifest is constantly evolving, so for the purposes of raising standards, protecting consumer interests, and preventing harm to consumers, we will update and re-issue guidance where new evidence or risks emerge which may have a meaningful impact on how the outcomes can be met.

Based on our understanding of data relating to the present situation and the likelihood that some customers may be experiencing harms, we judge this additional guidance to be necessary to address the emerging risks.

Can you give further guidance on the expectations of interaction with customers who have been playing for an hour in a single session of play?

As part of their drive to make gambling as safe as possible, operators should be using all the information they know about a customer to determine the most suitable form of interaction. See also section 3 in Customer interaction- formal guidance for remote gambling operators (PDF opens in new tab) titled ‘Interact’.

Are affordability assessments a new requirement?

The requirement to consider affordability is not new. Considering what a consumer can afford to spend is referenced within the July 2019 Guidance at 2.8 to 2.11.

Reverse withdrawals

If a consumer asks an operator to proceed with a reverse withdrawal, operators may find it beneficial to make it clear to customers that as of 31 May 2020 it is a regulatory requirement to prevent reverse withdrawals.

Does this require amendments to terms and conditions?

We do not require operators to alter their terms and conditions to include the suspension of reverse withdrawal but it may be sensible to consider user-friendly communications to ensure the message is delivered.

Bonuses and promotions

There is a requirement to cease to offer bonuses or promotions to all customers who are displaying indicators of harm. Should this just be applied to stopping the marketing itself or does it also extend to preventing the take up of bonuses by the customers displaying indicators of harm?

This applies to stopping direct marketing and preventing the take up of bonuses by consumers displaying indicators of harm.

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