Pandemic haircuts can come in many styles, Tim Miller, the new Executive Director of the UK Gambling Commission (UKGC) has warned the bad boys and illegal outriders of the betting industry.
Woe betide any verticals stepping beyond the law and not prioritising the safety of punters in the post-Covid world of online gaming: they’re in for a short back and sides from the body that regulates and supervises gambling in Great Britain.
That’s the message delivered by Miller in his keynote speech to virtual delegates at the CMS Conference organised by the 1,067 Partners of leading law firm Cameron McKenna Nabarro Olswang.
Clunky alliteration aside, Miller’s “Moment for Momentum” was a stirring Cri de Coeur to continue—and accelerate—the drive to “make gambling fairer and safer”.
“We continue to see example after example of operators who have allowed people to gamble amounts that are clearly unaffordable, with very limited or no customer interaction until a very late stage,” noted Miller.
“Just to be clear, we are not talking about grey areas here. We are talking about clearly unaffordable levels of gambling. Dealing with those types of cases and the harm that is already happening and, where necessary, clarifying existing rules will be our immediate priority.
“So I would encourage all operators to take a close look now at how they are assessing their customers’ risk and how they are interacting with customers because we certainly will be,” he warned.
“We make no apologies for focussing the industry’s attention on this.”
Online gambling now accounts for more than half of Gross Gambling Yield, Miller reminded his virtual audience.
Supercharged by mergers and acquisitions, the Covid pandemic and the ubiquity of mobile phones, the gambling landscape has been transformed.
In recent times the UKGC has strengthened protections against gambling harms by banning gambling on credit cards, enhanced age verification checks and by making online products safer by design.
And, according to the latest data, the problem gambling rate halved from 0.6 per cent in 2019 to 0.3 per cent in 2020.
But Miller cautioned: “We will not measure progress simply on this one metric alone. This data cannot be seen as a reason to take our foot off the accelerator when it comes to protecting consumers. Instead, it should be seen as an opportunity to continue building momentum in our efforts to make gambling safer.”
By the end of October, he reminded his audience: “There will be outright bans on features that speed up play or give the illusion of control over the outcome; slot spin speeds faster than 2.5 seconds; auto-play and sounds or imagery which give the illusion of a win when the return is in fact equal to, or below, a stake.”
Naturally the ongoing Official Review of the 2005 Gambling Act will dominate the progressive agenda, he stressed.
The UKGC’s new corporate strategy will focus on five key objectives, asserted Miller: protecting children and vulnerable people from being harmed by gambling; a fairer market and more informed consumers; keeping crime out of gambling; optimising returns to good causes from the National Lottery and improving gambling regulation.
He concluded: “No one [should be] in doubt that the Gambling Commission is totally focused on making gambling safer, fairer and crime free.”