.The United Kingdom Gambling Commission (UKGC) took the step of issuing guidelines to gambling operators this week, amid concerns of heightened gambling during the lockdown period.
Having already banned the use of credit cards when trying to play online bingo and other gambling sites, the UKGC has now turned its attention to furthering player protection during the coronavirus lockdown.
Most striking of the guidelines was gambling operators are now being advised to block all withdrawal reversal requests. This means that once a decision has been made to withdraw, then there is no reversal and that money is being withdrawn.
Lockdown Gambling Lower
The new guidelines come after a survey by YouGov in collaboration with the UKGC was published earlier this month. The survey showed that overall, gambling participation has actually fallen during the lockdown. However, certain lockdown gambling activity has increased.
Data provided by the gambling operators showed that the number of sports bets has fallen by 31%. This is understandable considering most sporting events around the world have been cancelled.
Meanwhile, online slots activity increased by 25%, with online poker rising by 38%. The new kid on the block when it comes to gambling – esports -showed an increase of 40%.
Interestingly as well as the overall lockdown gambling activity decreasing, overall session lengths fell. However, the lockdown period has seen a rise in the number of sessions played for over an hour.
UKGC Tightens Grip
Neil McArthur, the UKGC's CEO said: “Operators must use the data they hold to protect their customers and now, more than ever, it's vital that online operators really know their customers by monitoring how long they are playing for and understanding how financial uncertainty is impacting them and what they can afford to gamble with.”
As well as the withdrawal reversal which is a temporary measure at this point, gambling operators will be obligated to make contact with gamblers after one hour. The full guidelines on the UKGC website are that operators are expected to:
- Prevent reverse withdrawal options for customers until further notice.
- Cease to offer bonuses or promotions to all customers who are displaying indicators of harm.
- Interact with customers who have been playing for an hour in a single session of play.
- Review thresholds and triggers for new customers to reflect the operator’s lack of knowledge of that individual’s play and spend patterns.
- Conduct affordability assessments for individuals picked up by existing or new thresholds and triggers which indicate consumers experiencing harm – limiting or blocking further play until those checks have been concluded and supporting evidence obtained.
- Implement processes that ensure the continual monitoring of their customer base – identifying patterns of play, spend or behaviours have changed in recent weeks.
Gambling operators are expected to implement the new guidelines as soon as possible. If anything does not bode well for gambling operators with the UKGC consultation later this month.
In a few weeks, the UKGC will be opening a consultation that will seek to impose stronger measures around including reverse withdrawals. Also under the microscope are VIP Inducements and the ethical design of online casino and UK bingo sites.