A break and at the same time an opportunity not to be missed to definitively reform the gaming market in the United Kingdom. For many, the White paper represents a need to bring the wind of change that has long been hoped for in a country that has always brought innovation to this sector. There are many points to analyze and range from responsible gaming to the fight against illegality and the minors protection. On the occasion of the second day of Ice London which takes place today in the British capital, here is the Gioco News interview with the executive director of the Gambling commission, Tim Miller.
The white paper represents a turning point for gaming legislation in Great Britain. What are the main points why a reform of the Gambling Act of 2005 is needed?
“The gambling industry has changed significantly since 2005 and the Gambling Act review is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to deliver positive change for gambling in Great Britain and for all people impacted by it. As the statutory advisor to the Secretary of State on gambling we’ve reviewed evidence from a wide range of sources in putting together our advice to Government and we make a number of commitments for significant strengthening of requirements on operators. As part of this, we’re in the process of consulting on safety measures to ensure bonus offers and incentives do not lead to excessive or harmful gambling, further product controls for safer online games and requiring operators to identify and take action for financially vulnerable consumers and to tackle significant unaffordable gambling through frictionless checks that are not disruptive for consumers. In our advice to Government we set out that there’s a need for legislative change to set stake limits for online slots, create an independent ombudsman to fill the gap for consumers to seek redress when they have been treated unfairly, and introduce a statutory levy to provide effective and sustainable funding for research, education and treatment. We are pleased that the Government closely followed much of our advice when they published the White paper.”
Player safety is undoubtedly a crucial point for the Gambling commission. What initiatives will you carry out to make gaming safer?
“Our first set of consultations launched in July to implement proposals by Government in its Gambling Act Review White paper included improving customer choice on direct marketing, strengthening age verification in premises, remote games design and financial risk and vulnerability. We are currently working through the around 2.400 completed responses to these. And in November we launched the second set of consultations aimed at making gambling in Britain safer and fairer. These consultations cover: socially responsible incentives – proposals relating to incentives such as free bets and bonuses, to make sure they do not encourage harmful or excessive gambling; customer-led tools – proposals to empower consumers and make it easier for them to manage their gambling in ways that work for them, such as deposit limits; transparency of protection of customer funds – proposals to increase transparency to consumers if their funds are held by licensees that offer no protection in the event of insolvency; removing Commission requirements that would become obsolete due to the government’s upcoming statutory levy - proposals to remove the current Lccp requirement to make annual financial contributions to a set list of research, prevention and treatment organisations: regulatory data – proposal to harmonise across all operators the frequency of reporting of regulatory returns from annual to quarterly. This consultation closes on 21 February 2024 and we’re keen to receive as many responses as possible.”
What initiatives will you carry on to fight against illegal gaming?
“Our approach to illegal markets is informed by our licensing objectives of keeping crime out of gambling and protecting consumers and making it difficult to provide illegal gambling at scale.
In 2021/22 we started to receive additional funding, which has helped us direct more resource at tackling illegal online activity. But alongside our own ongoing intelligence-led disruption efforts, we have now brought further focus on to where we can look to maximise our efforts to disrupt unlicenced, illegal online operators through collaboration with others.
This means we’ve been going further upstream, further away from where our formal powers begin and have been looking to work with others to get between those illegal operators and British consumers and generally frustrate their business and force them out of our market.
This work has included: increasing the level of engagement we have with payment providers and financial institutions such as leading credit card providers and banks, working with them to cut illegal operators off from payments. Essentially, to stop the money moving; working with internet search and service providers to delist illegal operators from search results and to geoblock their sites as well as working with social media firms to take down posts which promote illegal gambling; working with software licensees to prevent access to popular products when their games appear to be available on illegal sites, ensuring licensees are doing all they can to prevent access to Great Britain licensed games via unlicensed websites; engaging with our licensees if we discover their affiliates have placed adverts on illegal sites – ensuring licensees remove advertising and encouraging an assessment of business relationships with these affiliates; building collaborative partnerships with other regulators across Europe and North America.”
An aspect that the Gambling commission has recently taken care of is that linked to the protection of minors. Are there any initiatives in this regard that you will carry on in 2024?
“Protecting children and young people from harm remains a priority and we are working hard to implement relevant proposals by Government in its Gambling Act Review White paper. This includes examining strengthening age verification in premises by considering responses to consultation proposals to: remove the current exemption from carrying out age verification test purchasing for the smallest gambling premises; changing the good practice code to say that licensees should have procedures that require their staff to check the age of any customer who appears to be under 25 years of age, rather than under 21 years of age.
As part of the White paper we are also examining staff supervision in some premises. We will explore through consultation the evidence around premises where there is not normally direct staff supervision (such as Adult Gaming Centres in service stations) and consider whether existing requirements effectively prevent underage gambling.”
A last question. What are your general expectations for improving such a complex sector as gambling in the Uk?
“A focus for us in the coming year will be the implementation of the White paper and of course carrying out all our core regulatory functions to make gambling safer, fairer and crime-free.
In addition to this we will continue to strengthen our relationships with other regulators abroad. We will always look to share our experiences with other regulators and likewise are keen to learn from theirs. We want to further build a culture of sharing best practice between us, and we also want - where appropriate to do so - to share notes on the many operators who now trade globally.
If an operator is non-compliant in another jurisdiction, this may point to an increased risk of similar failings here or in other jurisdictions. Whilst it’s not for any one regulator to act as the world police, in an increasingly internationalised gambling market it is essential that we work together, sharing experiences, so we can achieve better outcomes for everyone.”