Andrew Rhodes: UKGC to prioritise land-based reforms in 3rd consultation

UK gambling’s land-based venues and stakeholders must prepare for a summer of changes and adopt new rules to comply with the commitments of the Gambling Review’s White Paper.

At the Bingo Association AGM, Andrew Rhodes, Chief Executive of the UK Gambling Commission (UKGC), emphasised that the Commission would swiftly apply changes following the White Paper’s consultation phase. These changes will affect all gambling disciplines, both land-based and online.

The Commission is actively progressing the consultation phase of the White Paper, in line with the UKGC’s new corporate strategy to ensure ‘better data and better evidence’ in supervising and governing UK gambling activities.

Rhodes pointed out that the White Paper’s third consultation phase will specifically focus on land-based elements and feedback. He stated, “Later this year and likely this Summer, we will publish the next round of consultation responses and then proceed with a third consultation, focusing entirely on land-based sectors. However, the exact timings will depend somewhat on other work happening elsewhere.”

Rhodes acknowledged the scrutiny that the White Paper consultation has faced, particularly regarding the procedures for financial risk checks on online customers, which have dominated media coverage and interest in how regulatory changes will transform into law.

He also alerted land-based stakeholders about their upcoming responsibilities as the White Paper introduces significant changes in how venues interact with customers and manage their licences. He explained, “While many of you also have online components to your business, those of you primarily or exclusively offering bingo in brick-and-mortar clubs across the country should focus most on the tightening of age verification, the expansion of roles requiring personal management licences, and changes to direct marketing.”

Land-based stakeholders need to prioritise the implementation of procedures for mandatory age-verification checks at venues. The White Paper has introduced a legal age limit of 18 for certain gaming machines to protect children and young people, banning anyone under 18 from playing low stake Category D slot machines that payout cash.

The Commission is committed to implementing changes (land-based and online) through a staggered five-stage approach from August 2024 to February 2025.

Rhodes recommended changes in practices: “Change the good practice code to say licensees must have procedures requiring their staff to check the age of any customer who appears to be under 25 years old, rather than under 21.”

These changes to the Licence Conditions and Codes of Practice (LCCP) will take effect at the end of August 2024, marking another step in the Commission’s commitment to improving data collection and analysis to enhance regulation.

Licences will now include duties on ‘Regulatory Returns’ that shift from annual to quarterly reporting for all gambling operators starting in July 2024.

Rhodes also highlighted concerns among land-based stakeholders regarding the structure of the UK gambling’s Statutory Levy on gambling harms Research, Treatment and Prevention. As proposed by DCMS last October, UK gambling will adopt a 1% levy on gross gambling yield for online operators while setting the levy at 0.4% GGY for betting shops and small operators.

He replied, “DCMS is fully responsible for the design of the Levy, and we look forward to seeing their response to this consultation.”

“When the Government sets the timetable for the introduction of the Levy, everyone will need to pull together to establish it. It will be important to provide certainty for the people across the country who rely on those services, as well as for the organisations and charities that provide them.”