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UK Gambling Minister says reform is “long overdue,” warns “too many” operators are failing on protection

uk-gambling-minister-says-reform-is-“long-overdue,”-warns-“too-many”-operators-are-failing-on-protection

UK Minister responsible for gambling Chris Philp said a gaming reform is “undoubtedly long overdue” at the Gambling Reform Rally, organized Tuesday by the Gambling Related Harm APPG and Peers for Gambling Reform. The Minister further explained the publication of the White Paper on the 2005 Gambling Act review will be occurring “very soon,” setting out a revised policy for the industry.

Philp, who took over as Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) with responsibility for gambling last September, assured that the voice of those with lived experience and the families of those who suffered from gambling harm “is being heard,” informing the government’s White Paper.

“Reform is undoubtedly long overdue,” said the Minister. “We’re working on a white paper which will set out a revised policy in this area, and it is due to be published very soon.” However, Philp declared he was unable to pre-announce specific policies as the review is yet in the process of finalizing.

— Peers for Gambling Reform (@pgreform) March 9, 2022

“What I can say is that we know that the gambling landscape does need reform – significant reforms – as it is now significantly different from the last time our gambling laws were comprehensively reviewed some 17 years ago,” he added.

As iGaming barely existed in 2005, the year in which the most recent Gambling Act was introduced, legislation has been described as in need of an update in order to tackle the new landscape. According to Philip, new evidence points towards a rise in gaming harm, including a report from Public Health England which identified 409 gambling-related suicides a year. “It is imperative that we respond to that,” stated the Minister. “Change is certainly needed.”

Philp further described problematic gambling as “a public health issue.” This has led the government to introduce a ban on gambling using credit cards about two years ago, and further work on self-exclusion, but also to announce a commitment “to get 15 gambling clinics opened over the next couple of years,” an important part of treatment programs.

A message to operators

Moreover, Philp pointed towards operators for part of the blame, stating officials have heard of “too many cases” of gambling businesses “failing to meet their duties to protect people.” Just last week, the Minister remarked, the UK Gambling Commission “levied a huge fine” against an online gambling company, in reference to a £9.4 million ($12.4 million) fine handed out to 888 Holdings.

The penalization was brought upon 888 for breaches of company responsibilities to prevent harmful gambling and investigate their customers’ source of funds. In that particular case, Philp explained, the firm was fined the millionaire sum because it allowed an NHS worker who was only earning £1,400 a month to set a deposit cap at £1,300, over 90% of their monthly income.

Online gambling business, 888, will pay a £9.4m fine after a Gambling Commission investigation revealed social responsibility and money laundering failings. Read more on our website: https://t.co/VhoNS7qICS pic.twitter.com/lWrGwDFHK7

— Gambling Commission (@GamRegGB) March 1, 2022

“That is simply not right, and it shouldn’t take the Gambling Commission acting after the event to catch them. It shouldn’t happen in the first place,” the Minister warned, while also citing a separate case in which some stole £15 million ($19.7 million) from clients to fund a gambling addiction without being stopped by operators.

Philp called operators to leverage technology and data in preventing harm, stating big gambling companies have “enormous troves of data” which they use for the purposes of cross-selling and encouraging people to gamble more, but are not as keen on employing to protect customers from gambling harm.

I think we need to use that data to help protect the public, which means having a regulator that has the powers and capability to get hold of that data and properly analyze it, to understand where bad practices are happening and ensure compliance,” said the Minister. He further confirmed he is closely working with UKGC officials “to try and figure out these changes.”

Data usage and the UKGC

Separate from the White Paper review, the UK Gambling Commission is set to publish “shortly” its enhanced requirements for customer interaction in an effort to ensure gambling operators are doing appropriate checks. This, the Minister explained, will be addressed in the review as well “to make sure right protections are in place.”

“There is a lot we must do through the Gambling Review to combat the risk of people falling into addiction. There’s a couple of areas data can be used to accomplish that,” stated Philip. One would be the Single Customer View, which is where there is a process of data sharing, and secondly, affordability checks.

The government and the UK Gambling Commission would use any data shared as part of the Single Customer View, or gathered to check on a customer’s financial circumstances, “only for the purposes of harm prevention,” and not for commercial purposes.

The checks would be reserved for cases that demand them, when significant gambling losses are perceived, and not for relatively small amounts of money. “That is the kind of intervention we’re looking at, in a way that is proportionate and balanced.”

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