Operators will be aware of the Gambling Commission’s (GC) recent consolidation of the Licence Conditions and Codes of Practice for all operators (LCCP). This sets out the general conditions for operating licences and personal conditions, as well as the principal codes of practice covering “social responsibility” and “ordinary” provisions.

Earlier this month, the GC published a consultation on "Proposed amendments to the social responsibility provisions in the licence conditions and codes of practice".  In this article, we focus on some of the key proposals including underage gambling prevention, national self-exclusion schemes and advertising.

Preventing underage gambling

The GC proposes to make it clear in the LCCP that licensees must ensure that a premises’ layout facilitates effective supervision and supports implementation of underage gambling prevention policies.  To ensure that licensees take their responsibility to manage underage gambling risks seriously, the GC proposes to mandate test purchasing for national and regional operators (in fee category C or higher) who will be required to provide their results to the GC.  Smaller licensees (those in fee categories A and B) must continue to monitor effectiveness of their controls (e.g. by using test purchasing).

The GC is also seeking views on reinforcing staff training requirements and whether Think 25 may be more beneficial than the existing Think 21 policy.  It also wants views on improvements to underage gambling controls such as permanent door supervision, maglocks preventing doors being opened by the public until the lock has been disabled by staff, door chimes, CCTV and staffing levels.  The provisions on acceptable forms of ID will be amended to clarify that military identification cards can be used as proof of age.

Self-exclusion

Self-exclusion is a tool for those that wish to stop gambling for a significant period of time.  The LCCP already contains a requirement for licensees to have self-exclusion procedures.    Currently, those that wish to self-exclude have to do so with each operator they might gamble with.  The GC and Government have indicated that they are keen for effective multi-operator self-exclusion schemes to be developed and are committed to making progress in relation to a National Online Self-exclusion Scheme this autumn.  It is proposed that all online gambling operators must participate in this scheme which will allow customers to self-exclude in one place from all online gambling legally offered to consumers in Great Britain.  A non-remote multi-operator self-exclusion scheme is proposed to come into force in October 2015 (sector wide) and October 2016 (cross-sector).

Risk Assessment

It is proposed that applicants for premises licences or variations to those licences should be required to assess and evaluate local risks to the licensing objectives by taking into account local circumstances and have plans for mitigating those risks (e.g. the potential for underage access given the proximity to a school or youth club).  Licensees will be required to provide a copy of the risk assessment to the local authority if requested to do so. In addition, they will be required to re-assess risks where there are significant changes in the local area.

This proposed change will bring gambling applications more in line with those submitted under the Licensing Act 2003 where applicants are required to provide an operating schedule detailing how they will up hold the licensing objectives.

Marketing and advertising

The consultation proposes strengthened requirements to ensure that the marketing and advertising of gambling is socially responsible.  Currently, the LCCP contains a licence condition requiring licensees to satisfy themselves that their gambling terms and conditions are not unfair under the Unfair Terms in Consumer Contracts Regulations 1999 and if relevant, meet the reasonableness test under the Unfair Contract Terms Act 1977 (UCTA).  However, both of these pieces of legislation will be affected by the enactment of the Consumer Rights Bill (due to enter House of Lords' Committee Stage on 13th October 2014) which will revoke the Regulations and mean that UCTA only covers business to business and consumer to consumer contracts.  When enacted, the Consumer Rights Bill will regulate business to consumer contracts.  It is proposed that the LCCP is amended to provide that licensees must satisfy themselves that none of their terms are unfair within the meaning of the Consumer Rights Bill and make an accurate summary of their contractual terms and conditions available to customers in plain and intelligible language.

The GC considers that all gambling advertising should be consistent with the licensing objectives and the LCCP will be amended to require operators to ensure compliance with the advertising codes of practice which apply to the form and media where their gambling service is advertised.  The GC also wishes to ensure that the marketing of free bets is consistent with the licensing objectives by strengthening references to the CAP and BCAP rules and introducing a new provision to require that marketing communications adhere to the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008 as well as the BCAP guidance.  Additional proposals include making it easier for customers to opt out of receiving marketing communications and closing accounts.

Comment

The test purchasing requirement will come to no surprise to large operators who already implement this compliance mechanism, and provide the results of these tests on a regular basis to the GC.

Operators are urged, however, to consider the practical implications of some of the consultation proposals such as the underage gambling controls - in particular the use of door security and the use of maglocks, which could have a detrimental financial impact on business as well as implementation difficulties with a multi-operator self-exclusion scheme.

Operators should also be alive to the future enactment of the Consumer Rights Bill and ensure that they review and update their terms and conditions to ensure compliance with the new law.

All responses to the consultation should be send to the GC by 31st October 2014: consultation@gamblingcommission.gov.uk