On 7 February 2019, the Gambling Commission ("Commission") announced new rules that strengthen the requirements for online gambling operators to verify the age and identity of their customers.
The new rules will come into effect on 7 May 2019 with the aim of making gambling safer and fairer. The licence conditions and codes of practice will be amended to take account of these changes.
The new rules state that remote licensees must verify the age of any customer before the customer can:
- deposit funds into an account;
- access any free-to-play games; or
- gamble with the licensee with either their own money or a free bet or bonus.
In relation to identity requirements, remote licensees must now:
- verify, as a minimum, the name, address and date of birth of a customer before allowing them to gamble;
- ask for any additional verification information promptly;
- inform customers, before they can deposit funds, of the types of identity documents or other information that might be required, the circumstances in which the information might be required, and how it should be supplied to the licensee; and
- take reasonable steps to ensure that information on their customers’ identities remains accurate.
Currently, online gambling businesses are allowed 72 hours to carry out age verification checks, which often led to a delay in customers being able to withdraw their winnings. The new rules mean that online operators must now check a customer's age before they gamble, as opposed to after gambling may have taken place.
As well as protecting under-18s, it is hoped that the enhanced identity checks will help online operators detect criminal activity and identify customers that are attempting to gamble while self-excluded.
The consultation had sought views about whether licensees should be required to verify that an account holder's identity matched up with the name linked to the payment method they used. While many consumers supported this idea, most licensees opposed the proposal on the basis that a cardholder's name is not verified during a card transaction process. This plan was therefore not taken forward, however the Commission stated it will work with the banking sector to better understand the issues involved.
The Commission also confirmed that it will be launching a consultation on plans to provide further guidance on how operators should interact with a customer who may be experiencing gambling-related harm and will be calling for evidence on the use of gambling blocking software.
Online operators will now be required to enhance their verification process, as well as ensuring that these checks are carried out faster.
It is also interesting that the Commission extended these rules to cover play-for-free games which, despite not being classed as gambling, may encourage young people to gamble.