Changes to multi-operator self-exclusion, notification of deaths by suicide and payment services: Consultation Response
Proposal 1: Extending the multi-operator self-exclusion scheme to additional categories of betting licensee
Amendment to Social Responsibility (SR) Code Provision 3.5.5 - Remote multi operator self-exclusion
We sought views on our proposal to reduce the scope of the exemption provided for by Social Responsibility (SR) Code Provision 3.5.5 to extend the requirement to participate in the GAMSTOP multi-operator self-exclusion scheme (opens in new tab) so that it covers all categories of gambling licensees who offer betting by telephone or email. We proposed to do so by applying the requirement to the following additional categories of gambling licensees:
- remote general betting (limited) operating licences. A remote general betting (limited) operating licence authorises the provision of facilities for betting by telephone or email only
- ancillary remote betting licences, when they are relied upon to provide facilities for betting by telephone or email.
For these purposes, we set out in the consultation that we consider that telephone and email includes telephone voice calls, email, SMS (Short Message Service) text and instant messaging services such as WhatsApp, Telegram, Facebook Messenger and Instagram Direct.
- To what extent do you agree with the proposed change to the Social Responsibility (SR) Code Provision 3.5.5 to extend the requirement to participate in GAMSTOP to all forms of remote betting?
- Taking into account the additional financial costs for licensees brought within scope, to what extent do you agree that the proposal to extend Social Responsibility (SR) Code Provision 3.5.5 to all forms of remote gambling constitutes a proportionate approach to mitigating the risk of harm to vulnerable consumers?
There was good support for this proposal with the majority of respondents agreeing or strongly agreeing. Respondents felt that the proposed changes would provide for a comprehensive self-exclusion scheme and that the reach of GAMSTOP should be extended to capture all telephone and email betting.
Some respondents felt strongly that telephone and email betting should have been captured when GAMSTOP first went live and that it was likely that many consumers would expect that telephone and email betting was already captured as part of GAMSTOP.
Additionally, GAMSTOP provided a number of examples of comments made to their Contact Centre on this issue. Two examples are provided as follows for illustrative purposes:
- 'As a member of GAMSTOP and a compulsive gambler, I am very concerned how easy it is for me to open accounts and place bets with whatts app (sic) bookmakers'
- 'Is there any other tools I can use that stop/block me from using WhatsApp gambling sites as you can still use these sites even though your (sic) with Gamstop'.
The other respondents were broadly split between disagreeing and/or strongly disagreeing, neither agreeing nor disagreeing and/or not answering. Those that disagreed and/or strongly disagreed noted that some telephone and email betting gambling businesses do not currently utilise the software required to integrate with GAMSTOP and that the costs associated are disproportionate and unaffordable.
Some felt that the proposal would push vulnerable consumers towards the unlicensed gambling market, that consumers who bet by telephone are well known to their gambling businesses and therefore less likely to be experiencing issues with their gambling and that when compared with other gambling products, telephone and email gambling is considered lower risk.
Additionally, one respondent asked whether the proposal would apply to telephone and email betting facilities offered to other licensed gambling businesses for the purposes of hedging liabilities.
A small majority of respondents agreed or strongly agreed that, despite the additional financial costs for gambling businesses to be brought within scope of the proposal, the proposals were nevertheless proportionate when mitigating the risk of harm to vulnerable consumers. In their responses they noted that the associated costs came with being a regulated gambling business and the benefits to vulnerable consumers outweigh the costs to gambling businesses.
Those against the proposals felt that the associated costs were disproportionate given the potential risk to consumers and the costs would be unaffordable for small businesses given the low levels of Gross Gambling Yield (GGY) generated from their telephone and email businesses.
We have carefully considered all of the responses to the consultation and have decided to extend the scope of Social Responsibility (SR) Code Provision 3.5.5. This extends the scope of the requirement to participate in GAMSTOP, so that it will cover all categories of gambling businesses who offer betting by telephone or email (including remote general betting (limited) licences and ancillary remote betting licences, when they are relied upon to provide facilities for betting by telephone or email). Betting by telephone or email includes, for example, telephone voice calls, email, SMS (Short Message Service) text and instant messaging services such as WhatsApp, Telegram, Facebook Messenger and Instagram Direct. This updated requirement will come into force on 1 April 2024.
In arriving at our conclusion, our primary focus has been on assessing the risk of harm (in particular for consumers who are vulnerable) as well as the benefits to consumers of clarity and uniformity of approach to self-exclusion across all forms of remote gambling, alongside the additional costs faced by gambling businesses.
In our consultation document, we explained that the GAMSTOP fees payable from 1 April 2023 to 31 March 2024 provided an entry point of £100 for registration and an annual fee of £785 (excluding Value Added Tax), the exception being for gambling licensees making and accepting bets by telephone and email through a remote ancillary licence attached to a Category A1 or B1 non-remote general betting (limited) operating licence, for which the annual fees would be £161 and £428 respectively.
GAMSTOP have advised that the 2024 to 2025 entry point fees, whilst not finalised, will be in close proximity to current levels. We also recognise that some gambling businesses will face additional costs in relation to purchasing bet acceptance and/or consumer accounting software that is able to successfully integrate with GAMSTOP. We engaged with a number of Business-to-Business (B2B) software gambling businesses during the consultation window and found that entry point costs varied from supplier to supplier, dependent upon what services were contained with the software package. One B2B software gambling business, that already provides software to the type of gambling business that would be brought within scope, advised that their entry point software package that would enable complete integration with GAMSTOP would cost £1,200 per year.
We considered the costs highlighted in the previous paragraph, in relation to the data we collected in 20211, to better understand the scale and type of betting activity undertaken by telephone or email. Our analysis indicates that, based on the 2021 data, the associated costs would absorb all or significant proportions of the Gross Gambling Yield (GGY) for the 23 gambling businesses that generate less than £10,000 from telephone or email betting services. We therefore recognise that a small number of gambling businesses may decide to exit the telephone or email betting market but note that their primary non-remote betting offer through premises or at tracks would be unaffected. Should this be the case, gambling businesses wishing to surrender their remote operating licence in light of the extension of Social Responsibility (SR) Code Provision 3.5.5 should consider our guidance on surrendering your operating licence and contact our Licensing team.
Whilst gambling businesses exiting the remote market for this additional form of betting over and above their primary gambling activity is a negative impact, we have concluded that on balance and in order to protect vulnerable consumers and meet the licensing objectives we should proceed as proposed.
Stakeholders, including those from industry, have highlighted the risk to vulnerable consumers of remote gambling provision that is not in the GAMSTOP scheme. Often referenced in the context of unlicensed overseas gambling businesses unlawfully targeting the British market, the same argument applies to vulnerable consumers trying to circumvent their GAMSTOP registration through licensed telephone or email gambling services. Therefore, in our view the risks to vulnerable consumers from not proceeding with this extension (for some or all gambling by this form of communication) cannot be justified.
Additionally, we consider proceeding with the extension has the benefits of:
- consistency with the current approach applied to online gambling services
- simplicity for consumers, gambling businesses, ourselves and GAMSTOP – for example, a single solution is easier to understand, administer and monitor (for compliance)
- providing the most comprehensive protection for vulnerable consumers.
The requirement will not apply to telephone and email betting facilities provided to gambling businesses for the purposes of hedging commercial liabilities. The change to Social Responsibility (SR) Code Provision 3.5.5 (as detailed as follows in the amended Code Provision) will come into force on 1 April 2024. This will afford impacted gambling businesses sufficient time to source new software (where required) and/or integrate with the GAMSTOP application programming interface. It also aligns to the commencement date for the new GAMSTOP annual fees cycle.
Gambling businesses seeking more information on GAMSTOP integration and fees can contact GAMSTOP directly through email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Furthermore, we plan to run a webinar briefing and workshop with GAMSTOP to support impacted gambling businesses with the integration process in November or December 2023.
Final wording of amended Social Responsibility (SR) Code Provision 3.5.5 - Remote multi-operator SR code
3.5.5 - Remote multi-operator SR code
All remote licences except: any remote lottery licence the holder of which does not provide facilities for participation in instant win lotteries, ancillary remote betting when relied upon to provide facilities for betting via a machine (commonly known as self-service betting terminals) on premises where a betting or track premises licence has effect, remote general betting (remote platform), remote betting intermediary (trading room only), gaming machine technical, gambling software, host, ancillary remote bingo, and ancillary remote casino licences.
- Licensees must participate in the national multi-operator self-exclusion scheme.
1 55 gambling licensee respondents (from a total of 110) reported that they had accepted bets through telephone or email during the period 1 January 2021 to 30 June 2021. A further 12 gambling licensees declared they would accept bets using those methods.
Proposal 2: Reporting of deaths by suicide to the Gambling Commission
Last updated: 17 October 2023
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