The Gambling Commission has published its first substantial piece of guidance regarding the undertakings agreed between the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) and online gambling operators William Hill, PT Entertainment, Ladbrokes earlier this year, and later BGO, since publicly stating that they expect all licensees – not just those operators party to the undertakings – to comply with them. The guidance provides much needed clarification of two of the provisions of the undertakings, which operators who were not party to negotiations with the CMA would not have otherwise necessarily appreciated.
Undertaking 3 requires the operator to ensure “at all times” that the consumer is informed when he is playing with restricted funds (those funds to which wagering requirements or ‘promotional play restrictions’ apply) and, if so, about the nature and consequences of not complying with the applicable wagering requirements or promotional play restrictions. Despite the wording of this undertaking suggesting that consumers must be constantly reminded of the fact they are playing with restricted funds, the CMA has previously stated that operators can comply with this undertaking by simply telling consumers when they commence play with restricted funds. In its guidance, the Commission goes further stating:
We consider consumers should be told this again whenever they start a new play session where they are playing with Restricted Funds. For example, if a consumer pauses play with Restricted Funds and logs out or their account times out, we consider operators should remind them when they next log in and play that they are playing with Restricted Funds and the implications of that. It is open to operators to determine how best to inform consumers when they are playing with Restricted Funds whenever they start a new play session where they are playing with Restricted Funds.
In its guidance the Commission also go on to confirm that in their view, failing to ensure that a consumer does not mistakenly think he or she is still playing with restricted funds (if he is in fact playing with unrestricted funds), could be a breach of consumer law. They state that “it follows that operators should consider carefully if it might be necessary to inform consumers that they are no longer playing with Restricted Funds and, if so, how to do so”.
In respect of how licensees should notify players of the nature of, and consequences of noncompliance with, the promotional play restrictions or wagering requirements, the Commission has also confirmed that it is open to operators to determine how best to provide this information transparently. They do, however, provide the example of doing so in (or one click from) the notice to consumers that they are playing with restricted funds.
The Commission has confirmed meanwhile that undertaking 5 – which requires operators to ensure that the players’ deposit balances and bonus funds balances are “always displayed separately” – does not mean that they must be shown separately in-game. The Commission have confirmed that the purpose of the undertaking, which is to ensure that a consumer can easily determine how much he can withdraw at any one time, can be achieved by displaying both balances clearly in his/her account home page.