Gambling Commission stresses that operators must act responsibly during the COVID-19 lockdown 

United Kingdom

Correct as of 12:00 on 27 March 2020. This article is not being maintained.

Following its guidance last week about the COVID-19 pandemic, the Gambling Commission (the “Commission”) has released a further message to operators.

Neil McArthur, Chief Executive of the Commission, stated that there had been a rise in online slots, poker, casino gaming and virtual sports as a result of government guidance to stay at home. He took the opportunity to remind operators about the risks of harm from online gambling, and stressed that operators must be responsible, even where they are experiencing challenges to their usual business.

The message set out the Commission’s expectations in relation to consumer protection, marketing and compliance with the Licence Conditions and Codes of Practice (“LCCP”). Where operators are not following the Commission’s guidance, the message made clear that the Commission will not hesitate to take action.

In relation to consumer protection, operators should:

  • act responsibly, especially around individual customer affordability checks and increased social responsibility interactions;
  • be very mindful that customers may be vulnerable and experiencing financial uncertainty, whilst others may be experiencing other effects of being isolated including, for example, feelings of anxiety, loneliness or boredom; and
  • know their customers and step in if customers are showing signs that they are experiencing or at risk of harm.

In relation to marketing, operators should:

  • on-board new customers in a socially responsible way;
  • not exploit the current situation for marketing purposes and should be very cautious when seeking to cross-sell online gaming products to customers who signed up with operators in order to bet; and
  • ensure that affiliates are conducting themselves appropriately.

In relation to complying with the LCCP, operators should:

  • act in a way that minimises the risks to the licensing objectives;
  • treat consumers fairly and communicate with them in a clear way that allows them to make a properly informed judgment about whether to gamble; and
  • work with the Commission in an open and co-operative way and act in accordance with both the letter and the spirit of the regulatory framework.

Finally, Neil McArthur explained that he had spoken to representatives from across the industry to further understand the impact that COVID-19 is having on operators, customers and employees.

Using this feedback, the Commission is drawing up an assessment to consider how the gambling industry can best approach its work over the next few months. Any operators that would like to contribute to the Commission’s analysis of the situation can email communications@gamblingcommission.gov.uk with their comments.