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Consultation response

Changes to multi-operator self-exclusion, notification of deaths by suicide and payment services: Consultation Response

This response sets out our position in relation to the consultation on changes to multi-operator self-exclusion, notification of deaths by suicide and payment services.

Proposal 2: Reporting of deaths by suicide to the Gambling Commission


Amendment to Licence Condition 15.2.2 - Other reportable events

We sought views on adding a specific reporting requirement to Licence Condition 15.2.2 - Other reportable events, which would impose a requirement on gambling businesses to notify the Gambling Commission if they become aware that a person who has gambled with them has died by suicide. The requirement would require the provision of specified information, namely the person’s name, date of birth, and a summary of their gambling activity. This would ensure that all gambling businesses are consistently reporting such information to the Commission.

Section 4 of the Commission’s Statement of principles for licensing and regulation, currently states that gambling businesses should 'disclose to the Commission anything which the Commission would reasonably expect to know' and work with the Commission in an open and cooperative way. Ordinary Code 1.1.1 - Cooperation with the Commission also states that gambling businesses should 'disclose anything which the Commission would reasonably need to be aware of in exercising its regulatory functions'.

Our expectation has always been that gambling businesses should notify us when they become aware that a person who has gambled with them has died by suicide. This enables us to assess whether regulatory intervention is required and helps to inform our ongoing consideration of policy. While some gambling businesses have notified us in this way in the past, we are aware that this has not been done consistently.

The Commission recognised in the consultation that the information provided by gambling businesses would not and cannot be used to measure suicides associated with gambling or act as a proxy for such figures. This is because gambling businesses will not always be aware when a person who has gambled with them has died by suicide and so the reported figures may not be complete, and also because the figures will not be able to tell us which suicides were associated with the customer's gambling, which is a highly complex assessment beyond the remit of gambling businesses and the Commission.

The proposed condition would mean that failing to report a relevant event to the Commission would constitute a breach of a Licence Condition and the Commission would have the power to commence regulatory action.

Gambling businesses would only be required to notify us that a person who has gambled with them has died by suicide if they themselves are aware of it.

Consultation questions

  • To what extent do you agree with the Commission’s proposal to add a specific requirement to the LCCP, which requires a licensee to notify us if it becomes aware that a person who has gambled with it has died by suicide?
  • To what extent do you agree with the proposed new wording for Licence Condition 15.2.2?
  • Can you foresee any difficulties for gambling businesses in complying with this requirement?
  • Do you have any information on the economic impact of this proposal?

Respondents’ views

Responses to the proposal were divided. Those in support felt that it would make gambling businesses more accountable and there were a small proportion that suggested the proposal could go further. For example, including incidents when customers talk about feeling suicidal or threaten suicide.

Those against the proposal (mainly respondents representing gambling businesses and trade bodies) felt that it was disproportionate, that the data would lack reliability and validity and that it could risk creating an unfair causal link between gambling and suicide and that it could create issues around data protection.

Some questioned why the proposal was necessary given the existing provision under Ordinary Code 1.1.1, and there was a view from some respondents that the Gambling Commission should not consider the issue until the case has been considered by a coroner or the police, and/or the coroner or police should be responsible for providing the data to the Commission. Some also commented that reporting of death by suicide is not done in any other industries such as alcohol, and that gambling was being singled out.

Support for the proposed new wording for the Licence Condition was also mixed, with some respondents concerned that the requirement would be too broad, and that the 'reasonable cause to suspect' definition would be too open to interpretation. Others felt that the regulatory burden upon gambling businesses would be too great and were unclear how gambling businesses would become aware of deaths by suicide (particularly for non-remote gambling businesses) and the extent to which they would be expected to be proactive in seeking out such information (for example, through dedicating resources to monitoring media reports).

Some respondents indicated that they could foresee difficulties for gambling businesses in complying with the proposed requirement and the main themes raised were similar to those set out in previous paragraphs. In addition, some respondents suggested a need for further guidance should the proposal come into effect.

A small number of respondents raised issues specific to society lotteries. For example, some commented that society lotteries are lower risk than other forms of gambling and that the proposal should either not apply to them or be voluntary. Others were concerned that reporting by such gambling businesses could look disproportionate given that their primary work may reside in the healthcare sector or as charities that are specifically focussing on issues around death by suicide. Two respondents also noted that there may be data protection and/or privacy issues relating to charities’ clinical data where the charity is providing support to a patient, and the patient purchases lottery products that raise funds for the charity to show their appreciation.

There were fewer responses to the question about the economic impact of the proposal. Of those that did comment, some were of the view that this would be difficult to quantify until the Commission issues further guidance, while others indicated that there would likely be cost and resource implications for gambling businesses but did not provide specific details.

Our position

We have carefully considered all of the responses to the consultation and have decided to proceed with our proposal to add the death by suicide reporting requirement to Licence Condition 15.2.2. This change to the Licence Conditions and Codes of Practice (LCCP) will apply to all Gambling Act 2005 operating licences. The new requirement will come into force on 1 April 2024.

Evidence base and proportionality

As death by suicide is the most severe form of gambling harms, it is both reasonable and proportionate to expect gambling businesses to report this information to the Gambling Commission once they become aware of it.

Between 2018 and 2022, the Gambling Commission was notified of eight cases of death by suicide (through a combination of gambling businesses and families). However, we are aware that notifications have not been made consistently due to our own casework and engagement.

Death by suicide can be complex and can be multifactorial. It is also a very sensitive issue for bereaved families. This is why we are not expecting gambling businesses to determine whether the person's death was caused by or connected to their gambling activity. Responsibility for establishing whether a death is by suicide is a matter for a coroner or the police to determine. However, as these investigations can take a long time to conclude, we require notification as early as possible so we can consider if there is a potential risk of regulatory failings which could further impact consumers.

While in some cases it may be appropriate to await the outcome of an inquest or investigation, in others it may be appropriate to act where there appears to be evidence of regulatory failures. In these instances, the focus of our casework is likely to be focused on the gambling business's compliance with its regulatory obligations. It may be appropriate in certain cases to liaise with other regulators, police, or coroners’ offices to ensure appropriate information sharing takes place to achieve relevant regulatory outcomes.

Scope of requirement

Having considered all of the points made by respondents, we remain of the view that the wording consulted upon is the right form of wording based on the following.

Reporting of all deaths by suicide - It will be necessary for a gambling business to notify the Commission when it becomes aware that a person who has gambled with it has died by suicide. We do not expect a gambling business to determine whether the death was related to gambling. Once reported, the Commission will consider whether it is appropriate to commence an investigation into the gambling business’s compliance with its regulatory requirements. The information provided by gambling businesses might also form part of our broader policy considerations and development.

'Reasonable cause to suspect' - Some respondents proposed that the wording 'reasonable cause to suspect' could be replaced with 'actual knowledge' of a death by suicide. Although we considered this as an alternative policy option, we were concerned that this approach could omit some of the cases that we would expect gambling businesses to report to us and/or would be more complex to establish or evidence, for example whose specific knowledge would this apply to? Similarly, it could be argued that there could not be ‘actual knowledge’ of a death by suicide until such time as a coroner had made that determination. The Commission’s position is that the use of the word 'reasonable' is an important qualification. We do not expect gambling businesses to actively investigate various sources of information but to be cognisant of developments it might become aware of and respond accordingly.

Time limit - Death by suicide is such a serious outcome that we do not consider it appropriate to apply a time limit to the reporting of this information. However, there is no expectation on gambling businesses to proactively check for historic cases as the requirement would only come into effect from when the new LCCP provision comes into force (although if gambling businesses are aware of previous cases, we would encourage them to report them to the Commission).

We are considering a review period (of 18 months to two years) to assess the data reported to us to understand if it would be beneficial to apply a time limit to the requirement. If it is clear at this point that there is no regulatory purpose served by collecting information beyond a certain timeframe, we will amend the requirement accordingly.

Gambling which does not take place online and lotteries

Remote gambling businesses typically hold more information about customers and may as a result be more likely to be in a position to make a notification. However, we still consider it appropriate for non-remote gambling businesses to be required to make such notifications.

We have also decided that this requirement is to be mandatory for society lotteries. It is important to understand the combined effect of gambling across multiple gambling businesses and products.

Data integrity

As to concerns about whether the data will lack reliability and validity, we refer back to the original intention of this consultation which is that the information would be collected for regulatory purposes, in two key areas:

  1. To inform our compliance and enforcement work.
  2. To inform policy development (for example, customer interaction, the use of gambling management tools and our knowledge of gambling across multiple gambling businesses).

It is not the purpose of the provision to create a comprehensive and robust data set to establish the number of deaths by suicide. We therefore do not consider the concerns expressed around data to be valid.

Privacy and/or data protection issues

We have considered all of the concerns made by respondents in relation to data protection and privacy issues and are confident that the information that is to be reported to us under this new requirement is necessary and proportionate to meet the desired aim. For example, we do not require any information relating to the circumstances relating to the death by suicide or any associated medical information.

We expect gambling businesses to provide us with the deceased’s name, date of birth and a summary of their gambling activity in the first instance (if that information is available to the gambling business). It is only after reviewing this information that we will we consider whether further information about the individual and their gambling is required.

With regard to society lotteries, we would not expect a clinical team which receives information regarding a death by suicide to share this information with its lottery team for the purposes of complying with this condition.

We will implement appropriate mechanisms to ensure that any information that is collected, that does not meet the specific criteria for further investigation, will be handled securely and retained in line with the Commission's retention schedule and will not be used for an incompatible purpose.

No information about specific individuals will be put in the public domain, unless there are exceptional circumstances, for example where families engage with and agree or encourage the Commission to do so for whatever reason and there is a policy imperative or other important reason or justification for doing so. To the extent anything is published in relation to this sensitive issue, for example, to explain the Commission’s policy approach, it will be suitably anonymised and/or consist of aggregated information.

The United Kingdom (UK) General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and the Data Protection Act 2018 does not apply to the personal information of deceased individuals. However, the Commission would always wish to ensure that data is handled sensitively and to maintain any duty of confidentiality which may apply.

Further guidance on the requirement

We have sought to use this response document to set out the Commission’s position on a range of issues. This includes how gambling businesses would become aware of deaths by suicides and the extent to which we would expect them to be proactive in seeking out such information. We also expect to add additional information for gambling businesses to our website.

Economic impact

Our assessment is that the economic impact of this new requirement on gambling businesses will be relatively modest and proportionate to its aims. We will ensure that any regulatory action, if required, will also be proportionate to the importance of the matters to which it relates.

Final wording of amended Licence Condition 15.2.2 - Other reportable events

15.2.2 - Other reportable events

Applies to:

All operating licences.

  1. The licensee must notify the Commission, as soon as reasonably practicable, if it knows or has reasonable cause to suspect that a person who has gambled with it has died by suicide, whether or not such suicide is known or suspected to be associated with gambling. Such notification must include the person's name and date of birth, and a summary of their gambling activity, if that information is available to the licensee.

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Proposal 1: Extending the multi-operator self-exclusion scheme to additional categories of betting licensee
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Proposal 3: Payment services – updating references to regulations
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