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Gambling Commission sets the industry tough challenges

17 January 2020

Working groups led by senior industry leaders will tackle high value customer incentives, advertising online and responsible product design

The Gambling Commission has announced the formation of three industry working groups to tackle key challenges as part of a drive to make gambling safer.

The first-of-its kind initiative follows a briefing to industry leadersin October from the Commission’s chief executive Neil McArthur in which he laid down three challenges and opportunities that the industry must grasp to 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.

Gambling Commission chief executive Neil McArthur said: “Consumer behaviour 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.

"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.”

The three working groups are, in more detail:

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 incentivisation of high value customers working group will help ensure bonuses, hospitality and gifts in particular around VIP programmes, are offered in a manner which 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 behaviour and this new group will identify how existing rules can be strengthened.

This approach utilises 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 which 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. More details on this initiative will be announced in the coming weeks.

The Gambling Commission recently received independent advice on tackling online harms from both the Advisory Board for Safer Gambling and their Digital Advisory Panel.

  1. Latest data from NHS https://digital.nhs.uk/data-and-information/publications/statistical/health-survey-for-england/2018/health-survey-for-england-2018-supplementary-analysis-on-gambling
  2. VIP customers are a key part of Commission compliance work and it has had concerns about the poor practice around treatment of VIP customers for some time. This is why it changed the rules in 2015 which meant that operators must improve their interaction with VIPs and recently told industry it must make faster progress in this area. The Commission will also continue to take robust action against operators who fail to protect consumers. Recent enforcement cases involving VIPs include:
  • Ladbrokes Coral Group to pay £5.9m for past failings in anti-money laundering and social responsibility
  • Platinum Gaming Ltd to pay £1.6m for social responsibility and money laundering failures
  • Daub Alderney to pay £7.1m fine for anti-money laundering and social responsibility failures