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Consultation response

Customer interaction guidance for remote gambling operators: Consultation Response

This response sets out our position in relation to the consultation around the guidance on new, more prescriptive, customer interaction requirements for operators.

Topic 3: Section B of the guidance – Identify customers at risk of harm


The consultation proposed guidance relating to the indicators of harm listed at requirement 5. We explored the issue of whether more detailed guidance should be provided about what are to be considered 'strong’ indicators of harm. We asked for views on the increasing scale of indicators - and explored whether the 'stronger' category should be reclassified as 'medium-strong' in order to be clear about the increasing scale.

Consultation questions

  • Indicators: Do you have any comments on the extent to which the Commission should provide further guidance about the types of indicators that should lead to different levels of action?
  • Strong indicators: To what extent do you consider that the Commission should set out good practice examples of ‘strong’ indicators of harm? Please explain what examples could be included in the guidance document about operator good practice in setting a level for ‘strong’ indicators of harm.
  • Do you have any other comments on Section B of the proposed guidance document?

Respondents’ views

Responses were mixed about the amount of detail that should be included in Section B of the guidance relating to indicators of harm. Some respondents considered that more detail would be helpful, but others said less detail would be more appropriate. For example, some respondents requested further information on how to implement and operationalise the indicators, whereas others felt that giving more detail in the guidance would be unnecessary and may reduce innovation by gambling operators in customer interaction approaches.

Those respondents who sought additional guidance most frequently requested further information on the use of gambling management tools and when their use becomes an indicator of harm. One requested the guidance go further and specify values in some areas, such as time and spend.

Respondents shared examples of what could be included in the guidance. The key examples that were referenced in these responses were:

  • returning to gambling following self-exclusion
  • gambling activity ‘intensifying’ through increases in session times
  • making complaints about wins and bonuses
  • not withdrawing winnings
  • becoming evasive, expressing anger and an unwillingness to provide sensitive information.

Some respondents provided positive feedback on this section of the guidance, agreeing with the indicators and stating that the guidance which accompanies the indicators was helpful. Some highlighted that, although the indicators and guidance were in line with current studies, they should be future-proofed and be updated as new research is published and keep up with the pace of industry developments in this area. One respondent fed back that it was positive that ‘time indicators’ have been included.

A number of respondents commented on the indicators in requirement 5 itself which they considered to be too vague or broad. Some said that it could be difficult for gambling operators to demonstrate compliance during assessments and asked for further clarity on how to operationalise the guidance.

One respondent said that ‘strong indicator’ may be interpreted in two ways as an indicator on its own that may be strongly indicative of harm or as a behaviour that appears particularly pronounced or unusual. Respondents requested that more information be included on assessing multiple indicators collectively, and raised that strong indicators are rarely present in isolation. A number of respondents said that the Gambling Commission should set out good practice examples of ‘strong’ indicators of harm.

We received examples from members of the public and a charity (referring to their service users) of their experiences of gambling related harms.

As customer spend is an indicator included in the list, some gambling operators responded to this question to highlight their feedback and concerns about affordability and financial risk matters. Some respondents believed all references to spend should be removed from the guidance before the consultation on this topic following the white paper connected with the Government's Review of the Gambling Act 2005 (opens in new tab) is completed.

Some respondents from gambling operators shared examples of software systems they have developed that allow them to monitor, evaluate and act on player behaviour, as well as case studies of how they might integrate the indicators into their systems.

Our position

We have added detail to the guidance connected with comments made by respondents about how indicators can be assessed as 'strong':

  • there could be one indicator which itself is a strong indicator
  • there may be a behaviour that is an indicator because it is particularly pronounced or unusual
  • there may also be a number of less serious indicators might cumulatively amount to a ‘strong’ indicator.

This point - concerning multiple indicators which cumulatively indicate a more concerning picture - is a point which the Gambling Commission has often made in connection with indicators of harm and customer interaction, and which we agree would be helpful to make explicit in the guidance.

However, we want to allow some flexibility on the method of implementation. We have therefore not specified which indicators are 'strong' in the requirements - this allows the facts of each case to be considered. To cover which indicators we consider are strong in the guidance would be to set out very detailed information about the form and nature of gambling operator algorithms and this level of detail was not considered appropriate at this time. Although some respondents (including gambling operators) did argue for such detail, this is at odds with other industry responses and our wider conversations with gambling operators where they frequently call for some flexibility on the method of implementation and the ability to trial different approaches.

We have amended the guidance to reflect comments made during the consultation about the suggestions for detail - including making reference to evasiveness, expressing anger, and not withdrawing winnings within the guidance for indicators of harm.

Some suggestions by respondents for further detail for the guidance related to issues which were already covered by the proposed guidance - for example, previous self-exclusions and making complaints. Previous self-exclusion is included in the guidance - this has been set out in previous Commission documents that gambling operators should take particular care in relation to previous self-excluded customers care - such as when new indicators of harm are flagged.

Suggestions for further detail on spend will be considered in connection with the consultation on financial vulnerability and financial risk (opens in new tab) that was launched on 26 July 2023.

We note the responses from members of the public and a charity (referring to their service users) of their experiences of gambling related harms. These examples added further weight to the inclusion and/or retention of the indicators of harm that had been proposed in the consultation.

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Topic 2: Introduction and Section A of the guidance – overarching content
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Topic 4: Section B of the guidance continued – Identify vulnerability
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