UKGC sets August timetable for financial risk checks

The UKGC is set to implement widespread changes across the industry, introducing ‘light touch’ affordability checks triggered after a spend of £150 a month.

Aiming to ‘boost safety and choice for consumers’, the UKGC will implement the new measures in four stages: August 2024, November 2024, January 2025, and February 2025 after considering feedback from numerous white paper consultations.

To smooth the transition process as much as possible, the UKGC will initially enforce these checks at a threshold of £500 a month starting from 30 August 2024, before lowering it to £150 a month from 28 February 2025.

Following consultation feedback, the Commission plans to conduct a pilot to test frictionless assessment details in practice, collaborating with credit reference agencies and gambling businesses to assess the potential consumer impact.

The initial pilot period for these new measures will include the biggest operators to allow the UKGC to gain a comprehensive understanding of their impact.

Furthermore, new regulations will also affect game design by reducing the speed and intensity of online slots, as the UKGC aims to make them ‘fairer and increase consumer understanding about gameplay’.

The extension of these rules will also reduce the speed and intensity of online slots and games, ending operator-led functionalities that facilitate playing multiple simultaneous products such as roulette and blackjack tables. The guidelines will also curtail slam stops.

The regulations seek to eliminate the ‘illusion of control’ in igaming to harmonize the guidelines across the igaming space.

The UKGC will also extend the rules that currently apply to online slots to other games, eliminating audio or visual celebrations of returns less than or equal to the stake. These additional changes will take effect on 17 January 2025.

Also, on this date, marketing changes will take place, requiring operators to allow players to opt-in to the marketing channels they prefer.

Andrew Rhodes, the CEO of the Gambling Commission, commented, “As a gambling regulator, it’s crucial to base the introduction of new rules on evidence and to consider the views of consumers and other interested parties.

“We have considered the views from our engagement and consultation responses, and have adapted our approach while still delivering meaningful protections.

“We are also excited to advance a pilot of financial risk assessments and data collection, which will help us make informed decisions about how to implement these assessments in a way that supports both consumer freedom and protections.

“We must strike the right balance between protecting people from the potentially life-ruining effects of gambling-related harm and respecting the freedom of adults to participate in an activity that most do without experiencing harm,” he added.

Updating the media, Tim Miller of the UKGC stressed the importance of balance and the impactful nature of the consultation period, noting the pilot and the extended implementation period as key factors allowing businesses to adjust to the new framework.

The BGC introduces a new voluntary code In line with the new changes, the Betting and Gaming Council has established a new ‘voluntary code on customer checks’, aiming to reduce the friction of financial checks and enhance the strength of KYC duties.

The BGC has rolled out these checks as a voluntary measure for its members, specifying actions required when customers’ accounts exceed net deposits of £5,000 in a rolling month or £25,000 within a 12-month period.

Members applying the code must conduct a risk assessment of that customer to understand their financial situation (if not already known) and assess whether that customer is displaying any indicators of harm.

For higher wagering customers, who deposit over £25,000 annually, operators must request financial documents, described as “enhanced consideration (which may be similar to an operator’s existing enhanced due diligence process)”.

BGC Chair, Michael Dugher, stated, “This Code marks significant progress toward resolving an issue that has sparked heated public debate. It will greatly enhance the consistency of safer gambling standards while removing intrusive document checks for many who are currently under detailed scrutiny.”