How the UKGC’s Latest Changes are Affecting Land and Online Casinos
Gambling in the UK is regulated by the United Kingdom Gambling Commission (UKGC). The UKGC is considered one of the most stringent and efficient licensing authorities globally. It has detailed processes and rules that operators must be in compliance with once they are granted a license. These rules are updated regularly to tackle new issues and situations as and when they arise. The recent update in the rules was done specifically to ensure a fairer and more secure environment for players.
Besides making the environment fairer and more secure, the new rules also sought to provide mechanisms to effectively combat underage gambling right at the beginning of the gambling process. The rules were effective as of 7th May, 2019 and are part of a 3-year plan that the UKGC initiated to make gambling safer for UK customers. The enforcement of the new rules will commence from 31st October, 2019.
Let us take a look at what these changes are and how they are affecting the online and land-based casinos in the UK.
Latest UKGC Rules
The new rules and changes to existing rules are in the following areas of the License Conditions and Codes of Practice (LLCP):
1. License condition 17
2. Social Responsibility Code Provision 3.2.11 for age verification for remote betting and lotteries
3. Social Responsibility Code Provision 3.2.13 for age verification for specific remote lotteries
The 3 critical areas that the new rules and rule changes by the UKGC target are:
• Age verification
• Identity verification
• Eligible games
As per the new rules, casino operators must perform the required age verification checks of new players at online casinos right at the time they are creating a real money account and are registering with the casino. This is a shift from the existing rules that allowed operators to conduct the age verification checks within a maximum of 72 hours. This created a serious loophole by enabling underage players to gamble.
As per the new rules, casino operators are required to carry out, at the very least, checks to confirm the identity of a player before letting him gamble at their casino. They must perform checks to confirm at least the following:
• Player’s name
• Date of birth
• Residential address provided
The operator is required to inform the player right at the time of signing up the different documents that they would need to provide as part of the verification process.
As per the existing rules, operators did not have to make the basic verification checks and conduct the KYC process as soon as the player signed up. The laws were slack enough to allow the operator to perform these checks once the players had gambled.
The new rules require operators to conduct age verification checks for customers even when they are looking to play games in the free play mode. This new rule covers not just remote gaming and betting operators but also lotteries. This also affects affiliates who have now been included and are expected to meet the same stringent compliance rules
The existing laws didn’t have any stipulation to cover this area.
Other Rule Changes
There are other rule changes that have been made as part of the updated policy laid down by the UKGC. The following are a few important restrictions that have been laid down:
• Operators cannot use content that may appeal to prospective customers who are underage but is actually considered unacceptable. These include images of celebrities popular among younger age groups and also characters from movies, television or animation.
• Operators cannot use ads to target for participating in online casino gambling players who are underage.
• Operators will face restrictions when it comes to placing advertisements in media – online or offline – that have more than 25% of viewers from the underage category.
• Operators will be required to offer better options for alternative dispute resolution (ADR).
• Operators will be expected to increase their contributions to a voluntary fund to help fund research and prevention and also offer sponsorship for treating conditions related to problem gambling. This was expected, given that operators are already working with organisations like BeGambleAware to help players with gambling problems.
The New UKGC Rules and Their Relevance
There is no doubting the relevance of the new rules in the UKGC’s scheme of things. In an industry that is now a multi-billion-dollar global behemoth, everyone wants a slice of the pie and the rules help ensure this is done the right way. Operators have been consistently scrutinised by both the regulators as well as the media.
Similar changes have been brought in by the online financial organisations earlier. As a result, since 2013, the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) has levied fines to the tune of £1.9 billion and over 100 firms in the consumer credit segment alone have shut shop since then.
To be fair, operators have been quick to ensure compliance so far. A number of major operators in fact have teams to handle responsible gambling or at least organisations or personnel inside the industry to help them take care of issues as they arise. A good incentive for quick action has been the threat of surprise UKGC audits looming over their heads. Many operators are actually future-proofing their compliance mechanisms to be able to deal with rule changes as and when they materialise.
How the New Rules Help Operators
New rules and policies are usually met with resistance in any sphere, so let us take a look at how these rules are likely to have a positive impact on operators.
At the very least, the new rules give operators access to more and detailed information about a player right at the beginning. This is a big advantage because it makes it possible to nip any criminal activity or illegal betting/money laundering right in the bud.
The New Rules and How they Impact Players
The UKGC has in place loads of regulations to help make gambling online a safe and fair experience for UK players. This has thankfully not stopped the availability of casino bonuses. The bonuses must now be of a standard that meets UK Gambling Commission no deposit rules for bonuses, making It great news for players.
The new rules definitely have an impact on players. On the one hand, some of the changes may actually increase the time taken to complete the registration process, and that can be a pain for quite a few players. However, there are manifold benefits as well.
For starters, the new rules will ensure that operators cannot pop the requirement for additional documentation for verification purposes at the last mile, when a player makes a withdrawal request. This will help make the withdrawal process smoother and faster, something that every player looks for. This is a big step, given that the UKGC says 15% of player complaints that it gets is about this aspect.
The new rules and changes create a strong buffer, an extra layer of protection, for children and minors, which is a big step in combating underage gambling. This is especially true given the age verification needed for playing even the free-to-play games that casinos offer.