UKGC Announces New Rules to Better Protect Consumers

REGULATION written on rubber stamp

A regulatory crackdown is underway in the UK to ensure better protection for consumers from misleading gambling advertising. The UK Gambling Commission has announced new rules will be in force by October 31, imposing unlimited fines for any breach.

The regulatory body in charge of monitoring and controlling the gambling industry in the United Kingdom has announced that a new package of rules will be in place at the end of October, helping to provide a more secure gambling environment for consumers. The rules will cover advertising and will allow withdrawals by customers to be completed much easier and create an eight-week deadline for operators to resolve consumer complaints.

Unlimited fines

Once the new rules are in effect, gambling operators will be subject to unlimited fines for an advertising breach. The UKGC will be paying particular attention to any marketing campaigns that target children or that appear to be misleading in nature. Ads will also be under scrutiny if they take an approach that makes gambling appear to be safer or funnier.

As part of the crackdown, the regulatory body will require gambling operators to take a more proactive approach when it comes to advertising failures of third-party affiliates, along with spamming of customers with unwanted e-mails and text messages.

The Gambling Commission’s chief executive, Neil McArthur said: “Protecting the interests of consumers is priority for us and needs to be a priority for gambling operators. These changes will protect consumers from irresponsible advertising and misleading promotions, ensure that consumers can withdraw their money more easily, and will mean that consumer complaints are dealt with more swiftly.”

Following CMA investigation

The changes come after an investigation that was launched by the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) in collaboration with the UKGC. The investigation began in 2016 to determine if online gambling companies were treating customers fairly.

By June of last year, the CMA began a special enforcement action against several online gaming companies that were believed to have broken customer protection rules via the policies involving gambling advertising.

In February of this year, several online operators, including PT Entertainment, Ladbrokes, and William Hill, had committed to changing their policies regarding bonus promotions to create less misleading content. BGO Entertainment Limited also made a commitment in March to make changes in their policies to avoid misleading consumers.

The announcement of the new rules for advertising comes at a time when the government is being heavily criticized for its protection of players. Just last month, the government was criticized for deciding to delay the new maximum stake of fixed-odds betting terminals at £2 ($2.67) until 2020.

According to VSO News, an MP from Wales, Carolyn Harris, has been very vocal about her opinion of the stake changes, stating that she feels the delay is revenue-driven, with the government looking to find a replacement revenue stream for the tax revenues lost from the FOBT changes, going from a max stake of £100 ($133) to just £2 ($2.67).

Ms. Harris pointed out that the Treasury already expects to be able to make up any tax shortcomings by increasing the duty on online gambling beginning in April 2019. Therefore, it is not justifiable to continue to gain revenues from the FOBTs for another year when there will be an alternative revenue stream in place. The Treasury has claimed that it will take some time for bookmakers to make the changes necessary to the FOBTs, but industry insiders say that it will take only a short time to do so.

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