In light of the United Kingdom’s recent entry into a second lockdown, Neil McArthur, chief executive officer of the United Kingdom’s Gambling Commission (UKGC), has written to online gambling operators, reminding them of their responsibilities to their customers.
Mr. McArthur has addressed all online gambling operators serving the UK market, reminding them of their consumer safety responsibilities. He pointed out that the restrictions imposed during the second lockdown will likely mean that many people will be spending more time at home and this could be playing into many people’s vulnerability. He stressed that operators must prioritise consumer protection as the commission research has revealed that some gamblers are potentially at greater risk of gambling-related harm during the lockdown. He further explained that as a whole, the government and operators are much better prepared as the first lockdown has brought about a clearer sense of risks and as well as a clearer sense of impacts on mental health and wellbeing.
With this in mind, Mr. McArther reminds operators of the commission’s expectations regarding consumer protection and marketing.
For consumer protection, the commission expects operators to act responsibly, especially around individual customer affordability checks and increased social responsibility interactions. Additionally, the commission expects operators to be very mindful that customers may be vulnerable and experiencing financial uncertainty, whilst others may be experiencing other effects of being isolated. Finally, the commission expects operators to know their customers and step in quickly if they are showing signs that they are experiencing or at risk of harm.
As for marketing, the commission expects operators to onboard new customers in a socially responsible way. Furthermore, it expects operators to avoid exploiting the current situation for marketing purposes. The commission also expects that operators should be cautious when seeking to cross-sell online gaming products to customers who signed up. Finally, the commission expects operators to ensure that their marketing affiliates are conducting themselves appropriately.
Aside from consumer protection and marketing expectations, the commission also has expectations for operators in regards to their compliance to license conditions and codes of practice. The commission expects operators to act in a way that minimises the risks to the licensing objectives. It also expects operators to treat consumers fairly and communicate with them in a clear way to make sure that they are properly informed if their financial capacity will allow them to gamble. Finally, the commission expects operators to work with it in an open and co-operative way and act in accordance with both the letter or the spirit of the regulatory framework that it has set.
Mr. McArthur finalised his letter by inviting operators to voice out their concerns and feedback. He also invited operators to share relevant information that may aid the commission in its work to ensure operator compliance and consumer safety. He also went on to highlight that in these times, it is vital for all operator to play their part in keeping consumers safe and that the commission will continue on conducting regular reviews and inspections to make sure that operators do so.