UKGC Issues Stricter COVID-19 Measures for Gambling Operators

  • Commission wants to further protect gamblers during the ongoing pandemic
  • No uptick in problem gambling observed, but online players have increased
  • Guidelines enact enhanced measures for licensees to quickly spot vulnerabilities
  • Operators urged to block reverse withdrawals, promos to those displaying indicators of harm
  • CEO says regulatory body will take action against any non-compliant businesses
book with the title Guidelines
The UKGC has issued new and stricter guidelines for online gambling license holders to follow during the pandemic. [Image:]

Protecting consumers from gambling harm

The United Kingdom Gambling Commission (UKGC) has released a set of new guidelines for online gambling companies to further protect consumers amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The measures are aimed at all UKGC license holders except gaming machine technical, non-remote lottery, gambling software, and host licensees. 

While there has been no uptick in problem gambling since the coronavirus outbreak, the UKGC says there are more people playing online games such as virtual sports, table games, poker, and slots. Survey data also shows that the duration of online gambling sessions has decreased, but the number of play sessions longer than one hour has risen. 

Recommendations by the UKGC

The latest UKGC guidelines for operators call upon license holders to conduct a review of triggers and thresholds to track potential vulnerabilities among their player base. Such reviews are necessary in light of the changing financial situations many consumers are currently facing as a result of the pandemic. Some key signs of emerging vulnerability include increased spend or longer playing session times for a given account.

The commission says operators should review their time indicators so that they keep a record of sessions lasting more than one hour. Modifications may be needed when setting thresholds on new customer accounts, as the operator will not have much knowledge of the account holder’s spending and playing patterns.

If any of the new thresholds or triggers identify customers with potential gambling issues, operators must then conduct an affordability assessment. This may require blocking or limiting the accounts in question until all checks have been completed and relevant evidence has been procured.

stop allowing customers to reverse withdrawals  

Licensees are also being told to stop allowing customers to reverse withdrawals for the foreseeable future. They are also being urged to no longer offer promotions to players who are exhibiting indicators of harm. 

Close monitoring of operators

The UKGC will periodically review the new measures, which may be subject to change in the future. Chief executive Neil McArthur said the commission will sanction any operators who are found to not comply with the guidelines. He added: “We are monitoring online operators closely and if we see irresponsible behavior we will step in immediately, suspending licenses if we need to.”

we will step in immediately, suspending licenses if we need to.”

Since the outbreak of the pandemic, there have been concerns about a rise in problem gambling. A lot of people are out of work and stuck at home with little else to occupy them. This prompted the UKGC to issue an initial set of guidelines for online operators in April.

Numerous anti-gambling groups have pushed for a ban on gambling advertising for the duration of the pandemic. The Betting and Gaming Council met the demands halfway by pausing all forms of television and radio advertising for the remainder of the UK lockdown. 

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