Forcing affordability checks denied by UKGC CEO

The United Kingdom Gambling Commission (UKGC) has been met with controversy after reports emerged that punters must submit affordability checks before gambling. However, its chief executive Andrew Rhodes declared the agency is not to blame for this regulation but instead sees it as a responsibility of both itself and regulated operators in order to ensure safe participation among gamblers.

At last week’s World Regulatory Briefing at ICE, Neil Rhodes refuted rumors that the UKGC is calling for more widespread affordability checks. Instead, he highlighted how it has always been up to operators to assess a player’s financial worthiness and responsibly handle customer interaction.

Despite widespread industry concerns that introduction of affordability checks could be damaging, Rhodes downplayed the risk. This appears to contradict reports from YouGov – a key partner for UKGC research- which suggest otherwise. Revenue has already seen an unwelcome dip in this area.

Not to blame

In recent months, the betting community has been subject to a heightened level of oversight by operators. Bettors have had to provide not only their own financial records and proof of identity, but also those of close family members in order for them to be permitted continued access.

According to Rhodes, the UKGC does not demand such intrusive financial data, but rather encourages a proactive approach towards responsible gambling initiatives as part of industry standards.

With millions of dollars in fines and settlements, the UKGC has been cracking down on casino operators for inadequate financial scrutiny. To prevent further punitive action, some companies have started to take a more serious approach to collecting data associated with players’ finances.

Despite reports of the UK’s gambling spend being in decline, CEO Rhodes won’t accept that this is due to tighter regulations. His stance stands against research evidence and allegations from British lawmakers who have accused the Gambling Commission of lacking accountability.

Last week, Rhodes championed the regulator’s ambition to achieve effortless financial monitoring in gaming. He proposed an evidence-free approach when determining a consumer’s economic stability; however, he did not elaborate on how that could be implemented.

More delays to come

Over the past year, UK governmental reorganization has had an impact on releasing a highly awaited white paper regarding gambling. Recent turmoil stirred further speculation that yet another delay is imminent.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak announced a wave of ministerial changes – one being the transfer of Michelle Donelan, MP, to lead in the Department for Science, Innovation and Technology. The move marks an important shift as Ms Donelon had been at the helm of DCMS (Department Culture Media Sport) who’s white paper held great influence during her time.

Second, MP Paul Scully recently joined the Department of Sport, Media and Tourism (DSIT) in support of their vision for common sense gambling. He emphasizes that it’s important to trust citizens’ judgement when deciding how much they would like to spend on an activity.

Optimism regarding the imminent release of an important white paper on gambling has declined, with speculation that its arrival will be hindered by a lack of ministerial leadership in DCMS. Despite continued assertions from government figures, delays appear to be highly likely as there is currently no minister assigned to this area.

Category:   Gambling industry