New rules for all online gambling companies in the UK have come into force today (Tuesday 7th May 2019). From now on all remote gambling companies will have to complete age and identity checks before allowing any new customers to play.
Preventing Underage Gambling
The main difference under the UK Gambling Commission’s (UKGC) new rules is the time it takes to verify an identity. Up until now all gambling companies have been allowed 72 hours to carry out age verification checks, but under the new regime this all changes. Operators will have to show that they can make these checks quickly, or risk losing business.
The new rules require remote licensees to verify the name, address and date of birth of a customer before allowing them to gamble. They are also required to ask for any additional verification information promptly and give the customer a lot more feedback as to what identity documents might be required and why.
Operators will have to state how the information should be supplied and what the companies will do in order to retain their data safely, all the while ensuring that information on the customers’ identity remains accurate.
The new guidelines have been issued by the UKGC, which is committed to cutting out underage gambling and making gambling fairer for all customers. Previously, some operators have been under fire for not paying out (including big wins) to customers who hadn’t completed the age verification process in time, meaning gambling companies have been able to confiscate funds.
The regulator has warned that companies must no longer confiscate a customer’s funds based on not providing identification on time.
Industry Unimpressed With Timescale
There is conflict in the industry, though. Operators believe that the new registration system could deter new customers from signing up. Any company that does not comply with the new rules could suffer punishments, such as fines and license reviews.
Industry analyst Warwick Bartlett, chief executive of the Global Betting & Gaming Consultancy, said: “The new regulation, while desired and reasonable, will come at a cost of implementation and new account sign-ups could be slower.
“A customer seeing a price offered on TV who does not have an account will not be able to quickly take advantage; the account activation process is likely to be slower. This will reduce the return on advertising, which is one of the operators’ biggest expenses, and crucial to future growth.”
However, Remote Gambling Association chief executive Wes Himes said he believed that the new guidance does not go far enough.
He said: “The new identity verification rules will create greater assurance for the customers who frequent our operators and go further in protecting against underage access to sites. We would also call upon the government and Gambling Commission to accelerate work in areas like digital identity, so the weaknesses in the current system do not push customers to unregulated offerings.”
“Shut Down a Gateway”
Bartlett believes that the new rules will go through a teething process, and therefore operators should not be pressurized into getting everything perfect straightaway.
He said: “With all these things the commission and operators should ask what is reasonable, and have the operators use their best endeavors to conform to the rules. With any new process there will be problems. I hope the commission will provide some latitude until operators’ systems are fully engaged.”
But the UKGC has been quite firm on the benefits that these rules will bring and expects operators to be able to implement them as from today.
Commission secretary Jeremy Wright described the changes as “helping to shut down a possible gateway to gambling-related harm”.