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Customer interaction guidance - for remote gambling licensees (Formal guidance under SR Code 3.4.3)

Customer interaction guidance for remote gambling licensees (Formal guidance under SR Code Provision 3.4.3).

Published: 20 June 2022

Last updated: 30 August 2023

This version was printed or saved on: 25 May 2024

Online version: https://www.gamblingcommission.gov.uk/guidance/customer-interaction-guidance-for-remote-gambling-licensees-formal-guidance

Introduction

This current guidance was issued in August 2023 and is in effect from 31 October 2023. It replaces all earlier versions of guidance issued for remote gambling operators.

When there are indicators that a customer may be experiencing harm, acting early and quickly could help stop or prevent the harm worsening. Spotting signs of harm and taking early action can be a preventative measure, designed to enable a customer to gamble safely. It can also be reactive, to support a customer when harm is being experienced to reduce or stop gambling - even when it is reactive, it is most effective if the harm is identified early and responded to quickly.

Your regulatory responsibilities

All licensees are required to implement customer interaction in a way which minimises the risk of customers experiencing harms associated with gambling, as set out in Social Responsibility (SR) Code Provision 3.4.3 of the Licence Conditions and Codes of Practice (LCCP).

Social Responsibility Code Provision 3.4.3

The in effect dates are as follows:

  • in paragraph 1, the words ‘as explained in the Commission’s guidance (see paragraph 2)’; and the entirety of requirements 2 and 3 are in force from 31 October 2023
  • paragraph 10 is in force from 12 February 2023
  • the remainder of Social Responsibility (SR) Code Provision 3.4.3 is in force from 12 September 2022.

Remote customer interaction

All remote licences, except any remote lottery licence the holder of which does not provide facilities for participation in instant win or high frequency lotteries1, remote gaming machine technical, gambling software, host, ancillary remote bingo, ancillary remote casino, ancillary remote betting, remote betting intermediary (trading rooms only) and remote general betting limited licences.

1. Licensees must implement effective customer interaction systems and processes in a way which minimises the risk of customers experiencing harms associated with gambling. These systems and processes must embed the three elements of customer interaction – identify, act and evaluate – and which reflect that customer interaction is an ongoing process as explained in the Commission’s guidance (see paragraph 2).

2. Licensees must take into account the Commission’s guidance on customer interaction for remote licensees as published and revised from time to time (‘the Guidance’).

3. Licensees must consider the factors that might make a customer more vulnerable to experiencing gambling harms and implement systems and processes to take appropriate and timely action where indicators of vulnerability are identified. Licensees must take account of the Commission’s approach to vulnerability as set out in the Commission’s Guidance.

4. Licensees must have in place effective systems and processes to monitor customer activity to identify harm or potential harm associated with gambling, from the point when an account is opened.

5. Licensees must use a range of indicators relevant to their customer and the nature of the gambling facilities provided in order to identify harm or potential harm associated with gambling. These must include:

  • a. customer spend
  • b. patterns of spend
  • c. time spent gambling
  • d. gambling behaviour indicators
  • e. customer-led contact
  • f. use of gambling management tools
  • g. account indicators.

6. In accordance with SR Code Provision 1.1.2, licensees are responsible for ensuring compliance with the requirements. In particular, if the licensee contracts with third party business-to-business providers to offer any aspect of the licensee’s business related to the licensed activities, the licensee is responsible for ensuring that systems and processes are in place to monitor the activity on the account for each of the indicators in paragraph 5 (a-g) and in a timely way as set out in paragraphs 7 and 8.

7. A licensee’s systems and processes for customer interaction must flag indicators of risk of harm in a timely manner for manual intervention, and feed into automated processes as required by paragraph 11.

8. Licensees must take appropriate action in a timely manner when they have identified the risk of harm.

9. Licensees must tailor the type of action they take based on the number and level of indicators of harm exhibited. This must include, but not be limited to, systems and processes which deliver:

  • a. tailored action at lower levels of indicators of harm which seeks to minimise future harm
  • b. increasing action where earlier stages have not had the impact required
  • c. strong or stronger action as the immediate next step in cases where that is appropriate, rather than increasing action gradually
  • d. reducing or preventing marketing or the take-up of bonus offers where appropriate
  • e. ending the business relationship where necessary.

10. Licensees must prevent marketing and the take up of new bonus offers where strong indicators of harm, as defined within the licensee’s processes, have been identified.

11. Licensees must ensure that strong indicators of harm, as defined within the licensee’s processes, are acted on in a timely manner by implementing automated processes. Where such automated processes are applied, the licensee must manually review their operation in each individual customer’s case and the licensee must allow the customer the opportunity to contest any automated decision which affects them.

12. Licensees must implement processes to understand the impact of individual interactions and actions on a customer’s behaviour, the continued risk of harm and therefore whether and, if so, what further action is needed.

13. Licensees must take all reasonable steps to evaluate the effectiveness of their overall approach, for example by trialling and measuring impact, and be able to demonstrate to the Commission the outcomes of their evaluation.

14. Licensees must take account of problem gambling rates for the relevant gambling activity as published by the Commission2, in order to check whether the number of customer interactions is, at a minimum, in line with this level. For the avoidance of doubt, this provision is not intended to mandate the outcome of those customer interactions.

Licensees are required to take into account this guidance as set out in the Social Responsibility (SR) Code Provision 3.4.3. It has been developed to support effective delivery of customer interaction systems and processes in order to meet the outcomes of identifying and reducing harm.

Scope of Social Responsibility (SR) Code Provision 3.4.3 and associated guidance

The Social Responsibility (SR) Code Provision 3.4.3 and this guidance applies to: all remote licences, except any remote lottery licence the holder of which does not provide facilities for participation in instant win or high frequency lotteries1, remote gaming machine technical, gambling software, host, ancillary remote bingo, ancillary remote casino, ancillary remote betting, remote betting intermediary (trading rooms only) and remote general betting limited licences.

Lottery licensees are therefore only within scope of these requirements if they offer instant win games or high frequency lotteries. High frequency lotteries are defined as a lottery in which any draw takes place less than one hour after a draw in a previous lottery promoted on behalf of the same non-commercial society or local authority or as part of the same multiple lottery scheme.

The Social Responsibility (SR) Code Provision 3.4.3 applies to all remote licences except those stated. Therefore, providers of telephone only services under a full remote licence are within scope of these requirements.

How to use this guidance

The guidance is intended to support compliance with Social Responsibility (SR) Code Provision 3.4.3. We do this by setting out the individual requirements and for each one:

In this guidance, language such as 'must' or 'the Commission expects' is typically used in contexts where the guidance is intended to reflect the requirements of Social Responsibility (SR) Code Provision 3.4.3.

Language such as ‘should’, is typically used to denote an approach or action that is not required by Social Responsibility (SR) Code Provision 3.4.3, but which due to being set out in this guidance, gambling operators are required to take into account.

How the Gambling Commission will use this guidance

Social Responsibility (SR) Code Provision 3.4.3 sets out the requirements relevant licensees must comply with in relation to remote customer interaction. For compliance and enforcement purposes, we will expect licensees to demonstrate how their policies, procedures and practices meet the required outcomes. This can be through implementing relevant parts of the guidance or demonstrating how and why implementing alternative solutions equally meet the outcomes.

Amending this guidance over time

Understanding of gambling harms and how they manifest is constantly evolving, and industry continue to trial and assess best practice in addressing those harms. So, for the purposes of raising standards, protecting customer interests, and preventing harm to customers, we will update and re-issue guidance as required. New guidance may be appropriate for example where new evidence or risks emerge which may have a meaningful impact on how the outcomes can be met, or to reflect lessons learned from compliance and enforcement activity.

At the time of publishing, the following key points are seen as relevant to prospective review and updates to the guidance:

Further customer interaction consultation

The Gambling Commission has committed to a consultation on how to tackle the following three key financial risks for customers:

The consultation commenced in July 2023, and following the consultation on proposed new requirements to the Licence Conditions and Codes of Practice (LCCP), Remote Gambling and Software Technical Standards (RTS), and arrangements for Regulatory Panels (opens in new tab), this guidance may be updated.

Relevant research

The guidance cross-refers to the Commission’s official statistics on problem gambling prevalence. When these statistics are updated, and where other relevant research relating to harm and vulnerability emerges, this guidance may also be updated.


1A high frequency lottery is a lottery in which any draw takes place less than one hour after a draw in a previous lottery promoted on behalf of the same non-commercial society or local authority or as part of the same multiple lottery scheme.

2 Problem gambling rates for the relevant gambling activities are available on our website.

Section A - General requirements

Section A - General requirements - Requirement 1

This current guidance was issued in August 2023 and is in effect from 31 October 2023. It replaces all earlier versions of guidance issued for remote gambling operators.

1. Licensees must implement effective customer interaction systems and processes in a way which minimises the risk of customers experiencing harms associated with gambling. These systems and processes must embed the three elements of customer interaction – identify, act and evaluate – and which reflect that customer interaction is an ongoing process as explained in the Commission’s guidance (see paragraph 2).

Aim

To set out the overall aim of the Customer Interaction requirements that licensees must have effective controls to minimise the risk of customers experiencing harms associated with gambling.

Formal guidance

1.1. The systems and processes must embed the three elements of customer interaction which reflect that customer interaction is an ongoing process.

Identify harm

This is an ongoing process of monitoring, using indicators of harm to flag signs that a customer may be at risk.

Act to minimise harm

Tailoring the action to the number of types of indicators of harm is critical. Review the indicators and escalate action in response to those indicators. In some cases, this will require automated action, in line with the requirements. Record the action or interaction taken. Continue to monitor and ramp up action where necessary.

Evaluate

To consider the effectiveness of the action taken and whether further action is required. Evaluation processes should be built in from the beginning – they are not an afterthought.

This means that licensees must build processes which include the need to identify risk, take appropriate action and evaluate the impact of that action, which then returns to further monitoring, identification, action and evaluation. This is not a one-off process but should be considered throughout the customer’s relationship with the licensee.

Additional guidance and information (not required to be taken into account)

The continuous and ongoing process outlined in the formal guidance can be visualised as follows:

A diagram showing a box to the left containing the words 'Identify', 'Act' and 'Evaluate'. An arrow, pointing to the right, is coming out of this box and is pointing at eight circles, all of which have words inside them, that have all been arranged in a larger circle to represent the continuous nature of this process. The eight circles contain the following words individually: 'Monitor', 'Identify', 'Auto measures', 'Review and Escalate', 'Interact and record', 'Continue to monitor', 'Ramp up action if necessary' and 'Evaluate'. From this circle of words an arrow is coming out pointing downwards to a box which contains the words 'Cease business relationship if necessary'.

Section A - General requirements - Requirement 2

This current guidance was issued in August 2023 and is in effect from 31 October 2023. It replaces all earlier versions of guidance issued for remote gambling operators.

2. Licensees must take into account the Commission’s guidance on customer interaction for remote licensees as published and revised from time to time (“the Guidance”).

Aim

The aim of this requirement is simply to ensure that licensees take into account this guidance, which has been developed to support effective delivery of customer interaction systems and processes that are designed to meet the outcomes of identifying and minimising harm, and that amendments over time are also taken into account.

Section B - Identify

Section B - Identify - Requirement 3

This current guidance was issued in August 2023 and is in effect from 31 October 2023. It replaces all earlier versions of guidance issued for remote gambling operators.

3. Licensees must consider the factors that might make a customer more vulnerable to experiencing gambling harms and implement systems and processes to take appropriate and timely action where indicators of vulnerability are identified. Licensees must take account of the Commission’s approach to vulnerability as set out in the Commission’s Guidance.

Aim

The overall aim associated with requirement 3 is that where licensees know that customers are in a vulnerable situation, these customers are supported.

It is not the aim of this requirement that licensees screen all customers for each of the factors of vulnerability which are listed in the guidance, but rather that they consider and act on information that they have available to them.

Formal guidance

3.1. When customers are in a vulnerable situation, they may be significantly less able to understand the risks of gambling and the terms and conditions; and they may be at higher risk of experiencing negative outcomes from gambling.

The key forms of action when a licensee is aware of a customer being in a vulnerable situation are:

3.2. The Gambling Commission considers a customer in a vulnerable situation as 'somebody who, due to their personal circumstances, is especially susceptible to detriment, particularly where a business is not acting with appropriate levels of care'.

3.3. There are many reasons a person may be in a vulnerable situation and changes to an individual customer’s circumstances may mean that a person becomes more or less vulnerable to experiencing gambling harms.

A vulnerable situation can be permanent, temporary or intermittent, and may be related to health, capability, resilience, or the impact of a life event such as a bereavement or loss of income. It is the responsibility of the licensee to implement systems and processes which effectively incorporate an understanding of that risk so when identified they can act to minimise harm.

3.4. We recognise that licensees may not always have information available to them to identify vulnerability, however we expect licensees to:

3.5. Licensees can have a significant amount of interaction with customers through:

3.6. As part of ‘know your customer’ and developing customer interaction policies and procedures, licensees should consider the factors that might make an individual more vulnerable to experiencing gambling related harm.

Factors

Factors which may be relevant as part of overall consideration of risk, and along with other indicators of harm include:

Personal and demographic

If the individual is experiencing poor physical or mental health, physical or cognitive impairment, suffering side effects from a brain injury or medication or has an addiction. If a customer is a young adult, or an older adult.

It is the Commission’s assessment of the current evidence base that young adults (aged 18 to 24 years of age) are vulnerable to gambling harm due to a combination of biological, situational, and environmental factors, and are more likely to have limited gambling experience and low motivation to adopt protective behaviours. In addition, there may be risks associated with the onset of gambling and the occurrence of ‘life events’ that would typically occur most often within this age group, such as living independently for the first time or moving away from support systems relating to family, friends, or education.

Situational

If the individual is experiencing financial difficulties, is homeless, is suffering from domestic or financial abuse, has caring responsibilities, experiences a life change or sudden change in circumstances.

Behavioural

If an individual has a higher than standard level of trust or high appetite for risk. In the case of gambling, this can be flagged if the customer takes a high-risk strategy, particularly if inexperienced. If the customer takes a disproportionate effort to earn a bonus offer.

If an individual is engaged in an activity which is highly complex; that they have a lack of knowledge and/or experience of the market.

Access

If an individual has difficulty accessing information because of poor literacy or numeracy skills and knowledge.

Scenarios

3.7. The following sets out some example scenarios of how a licensee may become aware of a vulnerability and the actions they should take as a result.

Scenarios of how a licensee may become aware of a vulnerability and the possible actions available to the licensee are as follows.

Scenarios of how a licensee may become aware of a vulnerability and the actions they should take.
Category of vulnerability and explanation Example indicator for gambling licensees Example actions available to the licensee
Health: If an individual is experiencing poor physical or mental health, physical or cognitive impairment, suffering side effects from a brain injury, taking medication which may increase risk-taking, or has an addiction.

Health issues can be temporary or intermittent.
A customer mentions their ill-health during a conversation with customer service - the original contact may have been about problems with gambling or more routine conversations. Review account for other indicators of harm, and continue to monitor closely.

Ensure appropriate gambling management tools are selected by the customer or on behalf of the customer.

Cease business relationship, particularly in the case of brain injury or medication which increases risk taking behaviour.
Health: The customer is at risk of suicide. The customer discusses harming themselves during contact with the customer. The licensee should have processes in place for identifying and escalating the risk of suicide, including where necessary referral to emergency services.

Licensees should refer to the Samaritan’s guidance for operators (opens in new tab).
Access and capability: If an individual has difficulty accessing information because of poor literacy or numeracy skills and knowledge, or if an individual has a higher than standard level of trust or high appetite for risk. A customer gets in touch to complain about a game not meeting their expectations and the communication indicates lower than expected knowledge or understanding. Ensure easily digestible information is made available for all customers.

Review account for other indicators of harm, and continue to monitor closely.
Life events: If the individual is experiencing financial difficulties, is homeless, is suffering from domestic or financial abuse, has caring responsibilities, experiences a life change or sudden change in circumstances such as divorce or bereavement, job loss.

Vulnerability associated with life events is often temporary.
A customer discusses a significant recent bereavement and the impact this is having on their gambling on customer chat functions. Review account for other indicators of harm, and continue to monitor closely.

Ensure appropriate gambling management tools are selected by the customer or on behalf of the customer.

Cease business relationship, particularly if you have concerns about the levels of time or money spent by the customer after mitigating measures, or immediately where significant concerns.
Market related: If an individual is engaged in an activity which is highly complex; that they have a lack of knowledge and/or experience of the market. For example, a customer chooses a highly complex betting product in a niche market. A new customer chooses high risk or complex products in a non-standard pattern - it may be unusual for customers to choose highly complex betting products when they appear to be new or have little knowledge. Ensure customers are provided with appropriate information before playing such products.

Set limits on complex products for new customers. Such limits may be increased or removed over time, if appropriate.

Review account for other indicators of harm, and continue to monitor closely.

Additional guidance and information (not required to be taken into account)

Evidence of harm

Information about gambling harms research can be read within Measuring gambling-related harms - A Framework for Action (PDF) (opens in new tab)

In addition, licensees may wish to access information about the Commission's approach to researching Participation and the prevalence of problem gambling and the approach to Developing survey questions to collect better data on gambling-related harms.

Compliance and enforcement – lessons to be learnt from cases involving customers in a vulnerable situation 1

A gambling customer references that they are struggling with their gambling and that they have been recently bereaved. The licensee does not act on this information, and instead continues to offer bonuses.

Compliance and enforcement – lessons to be learnt from cases involving customers in a vulnerable situation 2

A gambling customer is asked to provide information on source of funds to support an affordability assessment and provides information about a medical claim. The licensee does not consider whether the medical issues mean that the customer is in a vulnerable situation.

Section B - Identify - Requirement 4

This current guidance was issued in August 2023 and is in effect from 31 October 2023. It replaces all earlier versions of guidance issued for remote gambling operators.

4. Licensees must have in place effective systems and processes to monitor customer activity to identify harm or potential harm associated with gambling, from the point when an account is opened.

Aim

The aim is to ensure that there are effective systems and processes to monitor all customer activity and identify harm. In particular, the aim is that customers who may be at risk of harm are identified from the point at which an account is opened and that indicators of harm are not overlooked while the licensee waits for a pattern of behaviour to emerge.

Formal guidance

4.1. Licensees must identify customers that may be at risk of harm using all of the information available about the customer. This means balancing all the financial, time and behavioural indicators and applying knowledge about their overall customer base and individual customers.

There is a wide and growing evidence base about patterns of spend and behaviour that are linked to risk. This knowledge can be used to consider the position of a customer and apply proportionate customer interaction as a result.

4.2. We set out in paragraph 5 of the Social Responsibility (SR) Code Provision 3.4.3 the seven required indicators that licensees must monitor:

Requirements 7 and 8 of the Social Responsibility (SR) Code Provision 3.4.3 set out the need to act in a timely way once an issue has been identified in order to minimise harm. Licensees with more active customers will need comprehensive systems, which will inevitably include a mix of automated and manual processes, and should draw on all available sources of data to give a comprehensive picture of the customer.

These indicators for identifying harmful gambling draw on:

4.3. The right information can mean better and quicker decisions. To meet the requirements, you will need to integrate your systems so that staff have a more complete picture of the customer’s activity, and this includes records of previous customer interactions and/or action taken.

4.4. Unmonitored overnight gambling carries an increased risk. Research indicates that the highest risk customers were much more likely to gamble overnight than non-problem gamblers. Processes must be in place to offer the same level of protection overnight as during the day, and at the weekend. Automated processes will be necessary as set out at requirement 11 in the Social Responsibility (SR) Code Provision 3.4.3 to reduce further harm.

4.5. To meet this requirement, it is important that all relevant staff receive training so that they are aware of the signs that could indicate that a customer may be experiencing harms associated with gambling. This is not an exhaustive list, but you should ensure that:

4.6. Licensees should aim to identify those experiencing or at risk of harm and intervene to reduce harm at the earliest opportunity. Reliance on deposit or loss thresholds that are set too high will result in failing to detect some customers who may be experiencing significant harms associated with their gambling. It is therefore imperative that threshold levels are set appropriately.

Historically, gambling licensees have not systematically considered customer affordability when developing their customer interaction policies. Many have used deposit or loss thresholds as a main or sole prompt for a customer interaction, but these have often been set at levels that were inappropriately high, in comparison to the average amount of money that the majority of people have available to spend on leisure activities. This has led to a number of examples of customers spending more than they could afford, and this not being identified sufficiently early, as seen in much of the Commission’s compliance and enforcement casework.

Open source data exists which can help licensees assess affordability for their Great Britain (GB) customer base and improve their risk assessment for customer interactions. Thresholds should be realistic, based on average available income for your customers. This should include the Office of National Statistics publications on levels of household income (opens in new tab).

In considering these thresholds, you should be aware of the difference between ‘disposable income’ and ‘discretionary income’ which refers to the amount left after living costs are taken into account, but it does still include many other unavoidable costs.

Most people would consider it harmful if they were spending a significant proportion of their discretionary income on gambling. This guidance may be updated following further consultation on the requirements to address gambling harm associated with financial risks of binge gambling; clearly unaffordable gambling over time and financial vulnerability. Licensees should be considering how they manage those risks now.

Record-keeping

4.7. Keep meaningful records of all actions for and interactions with customers. Make these records available to staff and use them to aid decision-making. This should also take place in circumstances where an interaction has been delayed at that moment for example because the customer is displaying signs of agitation.

4.8. Record-keeping is part of effective systems and processes and helps to inform evaluation and flag improvements which may be needed to address the key risks we have identified in current licensee practices:

Section B - Identify - Requirement 5

This current guidance was issued in August 2023 and is in effect from 31 October 2023. It replaces all earlier versions of guidance issued for remote gambling operators.

5. Licensees must use a range of indicators relevant to their customer and the nature of the gambling facilities provided in order to identify harm or potential harm associated with gambling. These must include:

  • a. customer spend
  • b. patterns of spend
  • c. time spent gambling
  • d. gambling behaviour indicators
  • e. customer-led contact
  • f. use of gambling management tools
  • g. account indicators.

Aim

To provide a minimum requirement of seven relevant categories of indicators that licensees must use to help identify gambling related harm. We consider this group of indicators to be key in understanding risk. The list is the minimum requirement and therefore not exhaustive; licensees should use their own additional indicators.

Formal guidance

5.1. Licensees must use a range of indicators relevant to their customer and the nature of the gambling facilities provided in order to identify harm or potential harm associated with gambling. These must include:

5.2. In order to identify which indicators should be used in addition or as subcategories to the minimum list. Licensees should use a range of indicators based on research, experience and shared practice. The PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) remote gambling research entitled 'Helping detect and mitigate harm from problem gambling' (2017) (opens in a new tab) identified some account and play indicators, but they are not a definitive list. The following examples include those that we have made requirements:

a, b, c:
Time and spend indicators: amount of money and time as well as and frequency of deposits (including identification of binges), high amounts at set times for example payday, time of day (a higher percentage of overnight gamblers were found to be problem gamblers, than during other times of day), increasing length of sessions or escalation in deposit levels. Amounts spent compared with other customers, taking account of financial vulnerability.
d:
Gambling behaviour indicators: gambling on multiple products, chasing losses, erratic betting patterns, gambling on higher risk products or unusual markets or outcomes on which the customer is unlikely to have been able to make an informed choice. People who bet in-play may place a higher number of bets in a shorter time period than people who bet in other ways, as in-play betting offers more opportunities to bet. Some studies have shown that placing a high number of in-play bets can be an indication that a customer is at an increased risk of harm from gambling. A ‘big win’: high staking following a win could hide or even lead to harmful behaviour.
e:
Customer-led contact: information or hints from customers, frequent complaints about not winning, expressions of anger, requests for bonuses following losses, or talking about the negative impacts of their gambling.
f:
Use of gambling management tools: changing deposit limits, previous self-exclusions, frequent or repeated use of the time out facility, a refusal to use gambling management tools, or setting limits so high as to be meaningless.
g:
Account indicators: failed deposits, multiple payment methods, pre-loaded cards and e-wallets which could indicate gambling with money the customer does not have, regularly failing to withdraw winnings (particularly where associated with other indicators of harm), becoming evasive or showing an unwillingness to provide information.

5.3. The following list is provided to support licensees with implementation. Licensees should:

Assessing whether there are strong indicators of harm will depend on the circumstances of individual cases – for example:

Additional information (not required to be taken into account)

The following list duplicates the categories of indicators of harm set out previously in requirement 5, which are required and sets out additional information about further subcategories which could be considered:

Section B - Identify - Requirement 6

This current guidance was issued in August 2023 and is in effect from 31 October 2023. It replaces all earlier versions of guidance issued for remote gambling operators.

6. In accordance with SR Code 1.1.2 licensees are responsible for ensuring compliance with the requirements. In particular, if the licensee contracts with third party business-to-business providers to offer part of the facilities for gambling, the licensee is responsible for ensuring that systems and processes are in place to monitor the activity on the account for each of the indicators in paragraph 5 (a-g) and in a timely way as set out in paragraphs 7 and 8.

Aim

The aim of this requirement is to ensure that customers are given the same level of protection even where the licensee contracts with third parties, and that action can be taken in a timely manner including automated solutions.

This requirement confirms that the licensee must always have oversight of customers gambling activity, in order to effectively implement the customer interaction requirements, even if the licensee uses a third party business-to-business (B2B) provider to offer some products.

Formal guidance

6.1. If the licensee contracts with third party B2B providers to offer part of the facilities for gambling, the licensee is responsible for ensuring that systems and processes are in place to monitor the activity on the account for each of the minimum indicators of harm and in a timely way for example licensees cannot have arrangements in place with a third party provider where they are unaware of their customers gambling activity with that provider.

Section B - Identify - Requirement 7

This current guidance was issued in August 2023 and is in effect from 31 October 2023. It replaces all earlier versions of guidance issued for remote gambling operators.

7. A licensee’s systems and processes for customer interaction must flag indicators of risk of harm in a timely manner for manual intervention, and feed into automated processes as required by paragraph 11.

Aim

To ensure that once licensees identify harm or potential harm that action is taken in a timely way to minimise further potential harm. The greater the harm identified the more important it is to take swift action, often this is best achieved by automated processes.

Formal guidance

7.1. We have seen examples through our casework of licensees correctly identifying harm but then not acting sufficiently quickly so the harm is exacerbated before they act. It is therefore important that systems and processes are developed to flag indicators of harm in a manner that allows for swift action to minimise harm. Where this action is manual, the processes must take account of the time for manual action to be taken.

7.2. The licensee will need to include indicators of harm and aggregated indicators that trigger automated action. In many cases, automated action will be appropriate due to volume of customers and inability to be able to monitor accounts manually.

Section C - Act

Section C - Act - Requirement 8

This current guidance was issued in August 2023 and is in effect from 31 October 2023. It replaces all earlier versions of guidance issued for remote gambling operators.

8. Licensees must take appropriate action in a timely manner when they have identified the risk of harm.

Aim

To ensure that once licensees identify harm or potential harm that action is taken in a timely way to minimise further harm. The action should be a proportionate response to address the harm, or potential harm, identified.

Formal guidance

8.1. When a licensee is concerned that a customer may be experiencing harm, acting early and quickly is important to help stop or prevent the harm worsening. Identifying signs of harm and taking early action is a preventative measure, designed to enable a customer to gamble safely, or take action to reduce or prevent gambling where necessary.

8.2. Licensees are required to take action due to Social Responsibility (SR) Code Provision 3.4.3 in a timely manner (which in some cases will mean through automated, real-time measures), and the action needs to reflect the seriousness of the indicators of harm, including refusing service and ending the business relationship where necessary.

8.3. As set out in requirement 9, licensees must tailor the type of action they take based on the number and level of indicators of harm exhibited. Importantly, this may mean taking strong or stronger action straight away, rather than increasing action gradually. This will include giving consideration to refusing service or ending the business relationship where necessary.

8.4. If a customer has been exhibiting low level indicators of harm and this progressed to higher levels of concern, it would be appropriate for there to be an escalation in the strength of response. But if there was a high level concern identified, such as immediately after registration, the strength of the action the licensee takes should match that immediately.

8.5. Licensees' interactions should have an outcome. Knowing what impact your interaction has had will help you support the customer, through the consideration of whether further action is necessary, and to keep improving your approach. To achieve this, it is vital to keep good records and make them available to staff to inform decisions.

8.6. When contacting customers you could consider how the customer prefers to contact you, to decide the best way to interact with them about their gambling.

8.7. Messages that get customers to think and make their own decisions based on the information they are given can be more effective than messages that seem to be 'nagging'. Research entitled 'Testing normative and self-appraisal feedback in an online slot-machine pop-up in a real-world setting' (Auer and Griffiths 2015) (opens in a new tab) also shows that personalising feedback can also improve the impact it has on customers. You should test different types of messaging to see what works best.

8.8. Encourage customers to think about their gambling. Their responses will help you work out the right kind of help and support to offer.

8.9. If you have difficulty making contact with a customer, depending on the level of concern it could be appropriate to suspend or restrict the account access until you are able to interact with them, or take any other action.

8.10. A self-assessment questionnaire can help customers think about their own gambling. Their shared responses, alongside their gambling behaviour, can help both you and the customer work out the right kind of help and support they may need.

8.11. You will need to direct some customers to information about safer gambling, and/or suggest suitable gambling management tools. This will include signposting to sources of help and specialist support from organisations who deal with advice and treatment for gambling harms.

8.12. You will need to interact with some customers a number of times if the earlier actions or interactions have not delivered the impact required. Your records of previous interactions with customers will help you decide whether there is a need for escalating action.

8.13. Feedback from customers shows that they often respond better to being informed about their behaviour and why, rather than being 'told' what to do. But for some customers, and particularly if the behaviour continues to cause concern, there is need to take a more proactive approach. In some cases, you may need to take action for the customer, such as setting limits; preventing direct or targeted marketing or ultimately refusing service by closing their account.

The role of staff

8.14. You should ensure that your staff:

8.15. Whilst training on the legislative framework is important, staff also need to be trained on the skills and techniques they need to help them carry out customer interactions, including what to do if a customer becomes distressed of there is a risk of suicide.

Keeping records

8.16. Good record keeping allows you to demonstrate when and why you have interacted with customers, and helps with ongoing monitoring of customers. You should:

8.17. Good records should include:

Section C - Act - Requirement 9

This current guidance was issued in August 2023 and is in effect from 31 October 2023. It replaces all earlier versions of guidance issued for remote gambling operators.

9. Licensees must tailor the type of action they take based on the number and level of indicators of harm exhibited. This must include, but not be limited to, systems and processes which deliver:

  • a. tailored action at lower levels of indicators of harm which seeks to minimise future harm
  • b. increasing action where earlier stages have not had the impact required
  • c. strong or stronger action as the immediate next step in cases where that is appropriate, rather than increasing action gradually
  • d. reducing or preventing marketing or the take-up of bonus offer where appropriate
  • e. refusing service or ending the business relationship where necessary.

Aim

There are two key aims of this requirement:

Formal guidance

9.1. Licensees have a range of actions they will apply in response to identified indicators of harm. This measure requires licensees to have the suite of actions set out in requirement 9 paragraphs a to e in place. In addition to this suite of actions, there are separate safer gambling and preventative measures that licensees may also use such as reducing risk to customers upfront through product and system design and the provision of generic safer gambling messages. At any time, if a customer is seeking help, a hot transfer to support may be appropriate.

The following content sets out information and guidance about the customer interaction suite of actions in requirement 9.

Early tailored action

At lower levels of indicators of harm which seeks to minimise future harm.

Actions at this level would include:

Medium tailored action

Increasing action where earlier stages have not had the impact required.

Actions at this level would include:

Medium strong or Strong

As the immediate next step in cases where that is appropriate, rather than increasing action gradually.

Actions at this level would include:

Very strong

Ultimately, if the licensee’s concerns about a customer persist because the licensee’s actions have not resulted in sufficient protections in place or behaviour change by the customer, the licensee should refuse service or completely end the business relationship. In these cases, signposting to support and help will be important.

Examples of types of action at increasing strength levels

A visualisation of the types of actions at increasing strength levels is set out as follows:

  1. Early tailored customer interactions

    Encouraging the use of gambling management tools through pop-ups, emails or other.

    Sharing information on spend or behaviour to encourage change.

    Setting backstop limits for customers while checks are being conducted.

    Enhanced checks and/or enhanced monitoring.

  2. Medium tailored customer interactions

    Phone calls to conduct an interaction.

    More emphasis on tailored encouragement to customers to consider behaviour.

    Signposting to help and support.

    Limiting direct marketing.

  3. Medium-strong customer interactions

    Requiring the customer to set a spend limit.

    Technology solutions: reducing the products visible to the consumer.

  4. Strong customer interactions

    Preventing direct marketing or access to new bonus offers.

    Setting spend limits on behalf of customers.

    Setting a time out on behalf of a customer.

  5. Very strong customer interactions

    Ending the customer relationship.

Section C - Act - Requirement 10

This current guidance was issued in August 2023 and is in effect from 31 October 2023. It replaces all earlier versions of guidance issued for remote gambling operators.

10. Licensees must prevent marketing and the take up of new bonus offers where strong indicators of harm, as defined within the licensee’s processes, have been identified.

Aim

It would be irresponsible for a licensee to encourage or incentivise a customer displaying strong indicators of harm to gamble further. The aim is to create a consistent position across licensees that where there are strong indicators of harm, the customer no longer receives any direct or targeted marketing and that the customer is prevented from taking up any new bonus offers.

Formal guidance

10.1. Where there are strong indicators of harm, direct and targeted marketing and the take up of new bonuses should be prevented as soon as practicable. We would expect licensee processes to include the use of automation in some cases to assist with the timeliness of the response. There should be processes to extend the restriction across all product types and where relevant across the group.

10.2. This requirement does not act in isolation. Where there are strong indicators of harm, it may be appropriate for further, separate action to be taken, which may include ceasing the business relationship.

Assessing what constitutes a bonus

10.3. In order to assess whether a promotion is a bonus, the Gambling Commission will consider the facts of the case. In summary, generic in-game mechanics applied to all customers are unlikely to constitute a bonus, but individually targeted offers or inducements would likely be considered a bonus.

Likely to be considered a bonus

10.4. All targeted marketing is within scope of this requirement. The licensee should therefore consider in-scope of requirement 10 any funds or equivalent provided by a licensees and added to a customer’s account from which the customer can place wagers, including deposit matching funds for wagering at the customer’s discretion, free spins on specific games, and free bets for sports betting.

Examples of what the Commission is likely to consider a bonus offer are:

Unlikely to be considered a bonus

10.5. Generic in-game mechanics applied for all customers are unlikely to constitute a bonus – in other words, promotions which are widely available and not targeted. The following are examples of mechanics which, subject to the particular factual circumstances, the Commission is unlikely to treat as a bonus offer:

Assessing whether a bonus is a new bonus offer

10.6. Requirement 10 applies only to new bonus offers. In order to assess whether an offer is a 'new bonus offer', the Commission will consider issues such as whether a customer has already spent funds or time towards earning a bonus offer before strong indicators of harm (as defined in the licensee's processes) were identified. For example, if there is a spend requirement of £50 and the customer has spent £25, this would not be a new bonus.

Bonuses which are partway through

10.7. Requirement 10 applies only to new bonus offers. However, licensees should consider their processes for customers who are part way through an offer, both to consider fairness and customer protection. Operating Licence Condition 7.1.1 in relation to fair and transparent terms and practices is relevant here.

10.8. If a customer is part way through the requirements of a bonus and the licensee ends the business relationship for safer gambling reasons the licensee should consider whether it would be fair and reasonable for the customer to receive a proportion of the bonus based on the customer’s position at the time.

10.9. If a customer is identified as displaying strong indicators of harm while they are part way through a bonus, licensees should consider (based on all of the information they hold on the customer) whether to prevent completion of the bonus offer. This should include giving consideration to the structure of the bonus offer and whether it would be responsible to allow the customer to complete it. It should also include consideration about customers receiving a proportion of the bonus offer.

Commercial considerations should play no part in any decision to withdraw a bonus that has been partially completed. Instead, licensees should take into account fairness and prevention of harm.

Non-monetary bonuses

10.10. Requirement 10 does not apply to non-monetary bonuses. However, licensees should consider whether they should prevent the take-up of non-monetary bonuses in some circumstances. These should only be continued in circumstances where the practice does not increase the risk of harm for the customer.

Licensees may wish to refer to Social Responsibility (SR) Code Provision 5.1.1 which relates to rewards and bonuses where 'a licensee makes available to any customer or potential customer any incentive or reward scheme or other arrangement under which the customer may receive... goods, services or any other advantage...'.

Transparency to customers

10.11. Licensees are required to have fair and transparent terms and practices (Operating Licence Condition 7.1.1). They should therefore consider the circumstances where they would prevent a customer from completing a bonus for regulatory reasons (as well as for commercial reasons) and how to ensure transparency through terms and conditions, notifications to customers and other practices.

Section C - Act - Requirement 11

This current guidance was issued in August 2023 and is in effect from 31 October 2023. It replaces all earlier versions of guidance issued for remote gambling operators.

11. Licensees must ensure that strong indicators of harm, as defined within the licensee’s processes, are acted on in a timely manner by implementing automated processes. Where such automated processes are applied, the licensee must manually review their operation in each individual customer’s case and the licensee must allow the customer the opportunity to contest any automated decision which affects them.

Aim

To ensure that immediate, automated action is taken to minimise harm where strong indicators of harm are identified; and to support licensee compliance with automated processing in line with data protection requirements.

Formal guidance

11.1. To ensure a timely response to identification of significant harm there will be a need for licensees to have automated processes in place. For example, if a significant level of harm is identified, it may be appropriate to place an immediate block on further gambling, a block on further deposits, or to set a deposit limit. This immediate action may stay in place until one or more final action is applied, following consideration by a member of staff, that manages the risk of harm. The final action may in some cases still be a block on gambling or a maximum deposit limit applied.

11.2. The second part of Requirement 11 requires that, where a decision is made solely by automated means and which has legal effects or similarly significantly affects a customer (such as by disrupting customer choice), the licensee contacts the relevant customer to inform them of the decision and their right to contest it. If they exercise their right to contest the decision, a substantive (manual) review must be undertaken. A substantive (manual) review is not required in every case or if the decision is not contested.

Section D - Evaluate

Section D - Evaluate - Requirement 12

This current guidance was issued in August 2023 and is in effect from 31 October 2023. It replaces all earlier versions of guidance issued for remote gambling operators.

12. Licensees must implement processes to understand the impact of individual interactions and actions on a customer’s behaviour, the continued risk of harm and therefore whether and, if so, what further action is needed.

Aim

The aim is that licensees evaluate the impact of their interventions to determine whether further action is needed to minimise harm, and that the further action is delivered in a timely and effective manner.

Formal guidance

12.1. This requirement means building in evaluation of the impact that the licensee’s action, has delivered. In this context, by impact we mean a change in the customer’s gambling activity which could be attributed to the interaction. This includes follow up interactions with monitoring of changes in play data including number of products used, spend, deposit patterns and more nuanced play patterns (such as chasing losses, increasing spin speeds and so on).

12.2. Not every customer who receives an interaction will require active follow up, but many will. In these cases, follow up activity should continue to be proportionate to the severity or extent of the harm being displayed.

As set out in requirement 9b of Social Responsibility (SR) Code Provision 3.4.3, if the interaction so far has not had the impact required, there is a need to increase the strength of action taken next.

12.3. Understanding the impact of the action on the customer includes being able to look at and compare:

12.4. Some ways to work out that impact include:

Section D - Evaluate - Requirement 13

This current guidance was issued in August 2023 and is in effect from 31 October 2023. It replaces all earlier versions of guidance issued for remote gambling operators.

13. Licensees must take all reasonable steps to evaluate the effectiveness of their overall approach, for example by trialling and measuring impact, and be able to demonstrate to the Commission the outcomes of their evaluation.

Aim

To provide assurance that the licensees customer interaction systems and processes are effective.

Formal guidance

13.1. Licensees are required by Social Responsibility (SR) Code Provision 3.4.3 to assess the overall effectiveness of their approach by bringing together information about the impact of interaction for individual customers. This should include quality assuring individual customer interactions by spot-checking records for those interactions including chat records, emails and records of changes in behaviour.

13.2. As well as checking that customers are getting the right support, this can also identify staff development needs and highlight good practice that you can share across your business and across the industry. Licensees should also trial different approaches to customer interaction to understand what works best, and what works best for different sections of their customer base (in line with requirement 13).

13.3. Whilst tracking of play data is the basic standard for evaluation of individual customer interactions, good practice is that licensees follow-up a sample of customers on an on-going basis to understand changes in problem gambling status based on problem gambling screens. Where possible, qualitative feedback on the quality and effectiveness of the interactions can also aid continuous development.

13.4. Licensees will need to keep effective records to meet this requirement. Records of interactions provide useful evidence of what types of indicators, methods of interacting and options for support and action work well for customers. This helps to inform the evaluation of the effectiveness of your overall approach to customer interaction.

13.5. Good evaluation helps you to understand which aspects of your approach are the most effective at identifying the right customers, and the types of tools or support that work well to help customers manage their gambling in a way that works for them. Reduction of indicators of harm following action is the key measure.

The following measures could also help to work out whether your approach is working well:

13.6. The licensee is required to submit regulatory returns. We have clarified the definitions in regulatory returns to offer guidance on what should be included in a customer interaction (incident) log and make clearer what should be recorded. Your log should include as a minimum:

13.7. Licensees should have a process in place to ensure that industry learning (including public statements from the Gambling Commission casework), research and industry best practice is reviewed and implemented into police and procedures where appropriate. Licensees should be able to demonstrate how they keep up to date and how they implement any learning into policies and procedures.

The role of staff

13.8. Your staff have an important role to play to understand whether your approach works, and as a minimum, you should:

Section D - Evaluate - Requirement 14

This current guidance was issued in August 2023 and is in effect from 31 October 2023. It replaces all earlier versions of guidance issued for remote gambling operators.

14. Licensees must take account of problem gambling rates for the relevant gambling activity as published by the Commission2, in order to check whether the number of customer interactions is, at a minimum, in line with this level. For the avoidance of doubt, this provision is not intended to mandate the outcome of those customer interactions.

Aim

Customer interaction is designed to identify customers at risk of harm. If the licensee’s systems do not identify numbers of customers at least in line with the problem gambling rates for the relevant activity, those systems are likely to be failing to identify the right proportion of customers.

This requirement provides a backstop protection – to ensure that customer interaction takes place as a minimum for the proportion of the customer base as the problem gambling rate for the gambling activity (or activities).

Formal guidance

14.1. In order to meet requirement 14, the Gambling Commission expects that systems and processes will be designed to as a minimum undertake customer interactions with at least the same proportion of their customer base as the problem gambling rate for the gambling activity or activities they offer. Customer interactions are those actions taken in connection with requirement 9. Because licensees should be identifying people at risk of harm the proportion of customers who receive a customer interaction should be greater than the problem gambling rate.

14.2. Licensees should ensure that they are on track to meet the minimum levels of customer interactions over an annual period, and to do so should assess progress monthly.

14.3. The Commission considers that the current most relevant and robust problem gambling rates relevant for this provision are the problem gambling rates from the Health Survey for England: Supplementary analysis on gambling (2018) (opens in a new tab), and specifically the problem gambling rates for the individual activities. We consider this to be appropriate for all licensees, although the survey is based in England.

14.4. We will update the guidance over time where we consider it necessary to reflect recent problem gambling prevalence statistics. Problem gambling rates for the relevant gambling activities are available on our website.

14.5. Licensees who offer more than one product or activity will need to work out their overall problem gambling rate to check they are compliant with this requirement. This should be based on the proportions of Gross Gambling Yield (GGY) that they generate for each activity. For example, casino games have a higher problem gambling rate. Where a licensee generates more GGY from casino games than from betting, the overall problem gambling rate for this requirement should be proportionate to the GGY from each activity.


2 Problem gambling rates for the relevant gambling activities are available on our website.