Gambling Commission announces action on “clearly unaffordable” gambling

Sarah Gardner spoke at the Shard Financial Vulnerability Summit 2021.
Sarah Gardner spoke at the Shard Financial Vulnerability Summit 2021.

Sarah Gardner, acting joint CEO of the British Gambling Commission, has said the regulator will prioritise action to stop players from gambling unaffordable sums.

UK.- Sarah Gardner, acting joint chief executive of the Gambling Commission, has said that the British regulator will take “immediate action” to stop players from gambling “clearly unaffordable” sums.

In an appearance at the Shard Financial Vulnerability Summit 2021, Gardner told the audience that the Gambling Commission would now focus intervention requirements on higher losses, rather than checks at lower spending levels.

She said: “Our immediate action will be focussed on preventing the types of cases we still see too much of in our casework.

“In particular this will tackle where operators have allowed people to gamble amounts that are clearly unaffordable, with very limited or no customer interaction until a very late stage.”

The Gambling Commission has carried out a consultation on player interventions. There have been suggestions that the Gambling Commission’s proposals on affordability checks had been dropped.

Work towards the development of a single customer view

Gardner highlighted the importance of the development of single customer view. She said the Gambling Commission would expect the industry to begin trialling solutions soon.

She said: “One of the major projects that will help identify and then protect vulnerable people from gambling related harm is the development of a Single Customer View.

“Currently no gambling operator has a full picture of a customer’s gambling. We recognise this increases the challenge of keeping a customer safe where operators currently only have a partial view of a customer’s behaviour.

“A Single Customer View would give operators a full picture of a customer’s risk of harm whilst keeping the customer’s data secure. 

“A Single Customer View could dramatically help reduce harm and that is why we will not accept progress at the pace of the slowest on this work. This project is also an excellent demonstration of collaboration to protect people and reduce risk.

“We are working closely with the Information Commissioner’s Office to make sure the project will protect consumers data. 

“Following the ICO’s work to establish a legal basis for the project and ensure consumers’ data is protected and secure, we will look to industry to begin solution trials as soon as possible. So we are also supporting operators as they work with us to develop the technology to test and then roll out the project.”

Action in other sectors 

Gardner, who stepped in as joint acting CEO of the Gambling Commission after Neil McArthur stepped down as chief executive in March, also said it was important that measures to limit gambling harm also come from sectors outside of the gambling industry itself. She said progress was being made.

Gardner said: “Just a few years ago there was very little support for customers from their banks to help protect from gambling harm. Now 90% of debit cards have gambling blocker options for customers.”

She also highlighted the Gambling Commission’s new three-year corporate strategy, which it published in April.

The strategy focuses on five objectives: 

  • protecting children and vulnerable people from being harmed by gambling
  • a fairer market and more informed consumers
  • keeping crime out of gambling
  • optimising returns to good causes from the National Lottery
  • improving gambling regulation

Gardner also highlighted the Gambling Commission’s work over the last three years. 

She said: “Our review of online gambling led to us strengthening age and ID verification, improving requirements on how gambling companies identify customers who are at risk of suffering harm and banning gambling on credit cards.

“We took action on confusing and opaque terms and conditions and strengthened the Alternative Disputes Resolution system to make the relationship with customers fairer.

“We have systematically ramped up our compliance and enforcement action: introducing Annual Assurance Statements, carried out targeted thematic reviews, such as on online casinos, issued over £100m of penalty packages since 2017/18 and revoked 10 operator licences since then as well.”

See also: British Gambling Commission suspends Lottery England licence

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