The UK’s Gambling Commission published a consultation on 7 August 2014 which seeks opinions on proposed new social responsibility measures which operators will be required to implement.

What do the proposed new social responsibility controls cover?

The proposals include the introduction of a national self-exclusion scheme for online gambling, as well as compulsory third party testing for larger operators to tackle underage access to gambling. The main areas covered are:

  • Restrictions on access to gambling by children and young persons;
  • information to players on responsible gambling;
  • customer interaction;
  • gambling management tools;
  • self-exclusion;
  • local risk assessments;
  • information requirements (regulatory returns and the introduction of an Annual Assurance Statement);
  • research, education and treatment;
  • marketing, advertising and fair and open terms; and
  • bingo and gaming machines in pubs and clubs.

Why update the licence conditions and codes of practice (LLCP)?

  1. Public concern has increased in respect of gambling in recent months – for several reasons, including reports in the media around the corruption of sports events, clustering of betting shops on high streets and pre- watershed TV advertising. There has also been greater political coverage with the introduction of the ‘point of consumption regime’ and the widely-reported comments of former Culture Secretary, Maria Miller, on the need to introduce further safeguards for children and other vulnerable people.
  2. The LCCP was first published in 2007. There has of course been a shift in consumer preferences and technological innovation since then, particularly the fact that apps have meant that mobile phones have become gaming and betting devices which are carried by consumers 24/7. There has also been an improved understanding of risk which needs to be reflected in an updated version of the LCCP.
  3. All operators will soon need a licence regardless of where they are located. This means, for the first time, the UK’s Gambling Commission can introduce new requirements without the need to persuade other regulators to do the same,  or be accused of introducing restrictions which help operators from less stringent regimes.

Our conclusions

The proposals are neither radically sweeping nor dramatic in light of existing provisions, but look  to add detail to long-standing rules, with a clear emphasis on their importance. For operators, the most onerous consequence will be the need to train staff to understand and implement the new rules, particularly the introduction of additional procedures around self-exclusion, not least to protect them from the possibility of having to pay back wagers to customers who have self- excluded. Operations will also have to do more to protect minors and other vulnerable people.

It is worth bearing in mind that compliance with the provisions of the social responsibility code is a condition of the licence and, therefore, in effect have the same status as licence conditions. Any breach of licence conditions could result in suspension or revocation of the operator’s licence, a fine and/or the risk of prosecution.