In October 2019, the Gambling Commission set out three challenges for operators to tackle in order to make gambling safer for consumers see Law-Now article. The challenges set were on: (i) incentives for high value customers; (ii) game and product design; and (iii) the use of ad-tech to protect vulnerable individuals online (collectively, the “Industry Challenge”).
On 19 June 2020, the Commission published a report on phase 1 of the Industry Challenge initiative and provided an overview of the Commission’s plans for phase 2, where the Commission will look to incorporate the positive steps made by industry into the regulatory framework (the “Report”).
Incentives for High Value Customers
As part of the Industry Challenge, the Commission asked key stakeholders to collectively develop a code of conduct which ensures the incentivisation of high value customers is offered in a safe and responsible way. Consequently, an industry working group chaired by GVC and Betting and Gambling Council (“BGC”) developed a draft code, which included several actions such as undertaking full customer assessments before offering such schemes, clear executive oversight and accountability and restricting access of such schemes for 18 to 24-year-olds.
In the Report, the Commission confirms that “for tailored incentives and bonuses to continue to have a place in the industry, we need to be satisfied they are being offered in a manner which is consistent with the licensing objectives. Where a licensee cannot provide that assurance, they should not be offering such schemes/incentives.” The Commission has stated that the published code will be used as the basis for a Licence Conditions and Codes of Practice (“LCCP”) consultation in June 2020 to ensure these minimum requirements are enforceable across the whole industry see Law-Now article.
Game and Product Design
The Commission acknowledges that the success of many technology companies, digital content creators and gaming machine games designers depends on their ability to establish and maintain consumer engagement with their web, mobile apps and in-premises gaming machines. However, the Commission also notes that, amongst other factors, speed of play and frequency of betting opportunities can increase addiction and risk of harm. As a result, the Commission challenged the industry to consider what responsible innovation looks like in terms of game design and product.
Following this, the BGC has stated that it is committed to publishing a full code to address the reengineering of games and gaming devices by 30 September 2020. The core elements that the code will address are the following:
- A minimum spin speed of 2.5 seconds on all slots.
- The removal of game features that speed up play such as quick spin and turbo play, and slam stop or stop reels will not be permitted.
- Games that allow players to place multiple, different stakes on multiple slots games within a single gaming client will not be allowed.
The BGC has also suggested that they wanted to establish a Sustainable Products and Game Design Working Group to explore in-game features such as volatility, innovations and so forth.
In the Report, the Commission applauds the positive suggestions put forward by the BGC around removing game cycle intensity. However, the Commission felt that the BGC’s draft code falls short in certain areas such as there being no action on adopting a maximum stake per spin. Therefore, the suggestions made by the BGC will be the basis for an LCCP consultation before the end of June 2020, but the Commission has committed to add additional proposals around three broad areas, namely: (i) measures to ensure enhanced control; (ii) measures to ensure safe and fair game characteristics; and (iii) measures to ensure informed player choice.
The use of Ad-Tech
The Commission challenged the industry to work together to demonstrate tangible progress on a plan to set new standards for how industry will embrace online ad-tech for social responsibility purposes, actively targeting away from vulnerable audiences.
The industry working group produced immediate voluntary steps which the working group would be committed to implemented (the “Commitments”). They include (among others): better and more consistent use of customer data to ensure paid-for ads are targeting away from vulnerable groups; age-gating YouTube channels and content; and adopting and rolling out to all affiliates a code of conduct, which will be updated and amended on a regular basis to ensure all measures implemented by industry are implemented equally by affiliates. These Commitments will be enshrined in the Gambling Industry Code for Socially Responsible Advertising from July 2020. The Commission has welcomed the adoption of the Commitments and has confirmed that it will continue to monitor the evolution of ad-tech.
Article co-authored by Fatima Butt