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We would like to clarify the matter of free-to-play games being available through gambling affiliates.

The LCCP changes on age verification on 7 May mean that remote licensees must now ensure that they have verified the age of any customer before the customer can access the licensee’s free-to-play games.

The Commission has been made aware that licensees may be benefitting from affiliate advertising models which offer free-to-play versions of real money games on their websites without the necessary accompanying age verification of users.

LCCP Social responsibility code provision 1.1.2 states, ‘’Licensees are responsible for the actions of third parties with whom they contract for the provision of any aspect of the licensee’s business related to the licensed activities.’’ Also that licensees must “require the third party to conduct themselves in so far as they carry out activities on behalf of the licensee as if they were bound by the same licence conditions and subject to the same codes of practice as the licensee”.

Licensees should therefore ensure the new LCCP provisions on free-to-play games are applied to gambling affiliates they employ. This may require advertising methods to be amended. The new requirements do not apply to other forms of advertising such as screenshots or videos of games which might be available on gambling affiliate websites, as these do not allow interaction by the customer. In these cases, there is existing marketing and advertising rules as well as the Remote Technical Standards (RTS), 6A paragraph d. The requirements do not apply to B2B suppliers who are offering demo versions of their games in order to sell them to commercial third parties, rather than consumers. Existing regulation is detailed in RTS, 6A paragraph d.

You should take steps immediately to ensure that your free-to-play games cannot be accessed by children and young people via affiliate’s websites.

How are B2Bs affected by new affiliate rules?

Where a free-to-play game is made available on an affiliate website, it is important who the target audience of that advert is.

If the target audience are B2C (consumers facing) gambling operators and not consumers, we do not think it is necessary for free to play games available on that site to be behind an age verification gate.

If the site is targeted at consumers, we would expect free to play games to be available for play only by consumers who have been age verified. This is consistent with social responsibility code 3.2.11.

Where a B2B uses an affiliate to advertise a free to play version of one of its own games, and that game is accompanied by hyperlinks to B2C operators who make the real money version of that game available, those hyperlinks serve to drive consumer traffic towards the B2Cs. The B2C operators will therefore be responsible for ensuring that the free play version on the affiliate website cannot be accessed by customers who have not been age verified, or otherwise that they dissociate themselves from the advertisement. 

We would of course expect B2B licensees to cooperate with their B2C partners and ensure that children and young people are not exposed to play for free games.

Who does this apply too?

The new LCCP requirements on age and identity verification apply to any operator that is offering remote gambling through their licence. This will include Casino, Bingo and Betting operators. A small number of lottery operators will also be affected ie those that provide online scratch card or instant win games.

Where are the new LCCP requirements set out?

Social Responsibility Codes 3.2.11 (betting, casino and bingo) and 3.2.13 (lotteries) provide the full detail of the new LCCP requirements.

Remote licensees must ensure that free-to-play games are only played by customers whose age has been verified. These changes were introduced along with several other requirements around age and identity verification.

Paragraphs 3.1 to 3.33 of the response document to the consultation detail the Commission’s reasoning and stakeholder responses to this part of the consultation.

What is a free-to-play game?

Most free-to-play games will be covered by RTS 6 and 6A (ie a game that involves no stake or prize, is ‘played’ by initiating reel spins for example, and which is a version of a corresponding real money game).

There may however be other types of free to play game in the market and the Commission would consider these on a case-by-case basis in terms of the requirement for age verification.

Free-to-play games do not however include other forms of advertising such as screenshots or videos of games which might be available on gambling affiliate websites, as these do not allow interaction by the customer.

How long do operators have to comply?

The changes to LCCP took effect on 7 May and we would therefore expect operators to make immediate arrangements to ensure that any affiliates they use are advertising the operator’s facilities in a manner that is consistent with LCCP.

What is a suitable age verification process?

With regards to what the Commission would constitute a sufficient and robust age verification process, we made clear in our recent response document (4.65 to 4.70) that we do not prescribe a uniform methodology for verification. However, it should at least be robust enough to give a licensee assurance that the customer exists and that they are 18 or over. This could include, for example, using third party databases to verify the age of the individual or verifying age from valid identity documents provided by the individual. To be completely clear, self-declaration of age where the customer simply inputs their data of birth into the website (like on alcohol websites) would not be sufficient for these purposes. 

Posted on 01 July 2019