British regulator issues new VIP rules

The rules come into force on October 31.
The rules come into force on October 31.

Operators must carry out enhanced affordability and responsible gambling checks.

UK.- As expected, the Gambling Commission has held off from banning VIP schemes but has issued new rules that demand operators conduct enhanced affordability and responsible gambling checks.

From October 31, operators must conduct a check on players’ source of funds to ensure that spending is sustainable and must inspect players’ past gambling behaviour for signs of gambling-related harm before considering them for any VIP scheme.

They must ensure they keep up-to-date evidence of each player’s identity, their occupation and an indication of where their gambling funds come from.

These must be submitted by the player himself rather than taken from public sources.

The checks must be repeated at regular intervals after a player joins a VIP scheme.

Operators must also keep “a full audit trail” on all VIPs, including noteworthy events during a customer relationship. VIP schemes will also need to have a specific person in charge of compliance.

The Gambling Commission warned that loyalty schemes may still be banned if operators fail to comply with the new rules.

Chief executive Neil McArthur said: “Operators can be in no doubt about our expectations. If significant improvements are not made, we will have no choice but to take further action and ban such schemes.

“We have introduced these new rules to stamp out malpractice in the management of VIP customers and to make gambling safer.

“Our enforcement work has identified too many cases of misconduct in the management of VIP schemes and this is the last chance for operators to show they can operate such schemes appropriately.

“We understand that the number of customers signed up to ‘VIP’ schemes has already reduced by 70 per cent since we challenged the industry to get its house in order, last year.

“While that is a sign of the positive impact our innovative approach to collaborative working can have, these new rules are designed to ensure progress continues to be made to protect vulnerable customers.”

The Commission said that industry respondents to its consultation on the changes had generally agreed that additional checks were necessary, although some had opposed additional checks on customers that are not spending the amount that would normally trigger anti-money laundering controls.

The commission said: “We note the concern that source of funds, ordinarily prompted by anti-money laundering (AML) concerns, may currently be conducted at a higher threshold than is typically required to qualify for high value customer (HVC) incentives.

“However, we consider these checks justifiable given the unique arrangements made to incentivise HVCs to spend at significantly higher levels than the wider customer base.”

The new rules have already been criticised by safer gambling campaigners as not going far enough. Some groups had called for a total ban on VIP schemes.