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How we protect player interests

Find out how we're reducing gambling-related harm and making gambling safer.

Published: 23 September 2020

Last updated: 17 May 2021

This version was printed or saved on: 19 May 2024

Online version: https://www.gamblingcommission.gov.uk/public-and-players/guide/how-we-protect-player-interests

Overview: Find out how we protect the interest of players by working with groups who provide advice, evidence and recommendations to the Commission.

You can also find out about some of the recent consultations we've run to get feedback to help inform our work and read about measures we've taken to prevent gambling with credit cards.

Experts by Experience interim group created

The Gambling Commission announced that it is working with an interim Experts by Experience Group who will provide advice, evidence and recommendations to the Commission. These recommendations will be used to inform decision making and raise standards. They are also co-creating a permanent Experts by Experience Advisory Group to advise the regulator on a more established basis.

The group was created after a workshop in March 2020 in which people with personal experience were asked to offer perspectives on key topics, including:

The regulator had challenged the industry to make quick progress on these three areas. The Commission also published a report on these areas of work which includes Expert by Experience input on the progress made so far.

The group also discussed ideas about how the Commission could better work with people with lived experience and the need for more effective engagement and collaboration to benefit consumers.

Gambling Commission Chief Executive, Neil McArthur, said: “Our goal is to make gambling safer for consumers and the creation of the interim group is another important step in helping us bring a wider range of perspectives into our work.

“We will work with the interim group to co-create a formal Advisory Board, which will allow us to involve Experts by Experience more closely in the development of our regulatory framework.

“I am really grateful for the open and constructive way in which members of the interim group have shared their personal experiences of gambling related harm and for everyone’s commitment to work together to tackle these important issues. It is early days and we are learning along the way to ensure that feedback and advice is utilised in the most effective way. This week we looked at the subject of affordability and we’ll be focused on other areas of player protection online in the weeks ahead.’

A spokesperson for the Interim Group said: “The Interim Group comprises a group of people who have suffered a wide range of gambling harms, including recovering gambling addicts, family and partners of addicts, and those who have lost children to gambling suicides.

"The role that is too often allocated to Experts by Experience (EbEs) of telling our stories and commenting on narrowly defined questions is ineffective, so the establishment of the group is long overdue.

“We are determined that EbEs should play a continuing and much more active role in the deliberations and decision making across the whole remit of the Commission as part of the National Strategy to reduce gambling harms. We bring a new and vital perspective on key issues of regulation and even how the Commission itself works.

“We and they are learning how we can best work together, but we feel that there is a genuine commitment all round to make it work. Some of our comments were incorporated into the progress update on the industry-led working groups, but in future we may issue our own comments on issues that we have consulted with the Commission. We appreciate that the Commission recognises the value of our input, but we differ on certain key issues. Notably on how far and how fast improvements can be made. We look forward to working with the Commission.”

This valuable input will add to the Commission’s other approaches currently used to include the views of consumers in their work. This includes information and feedback received from the consumer contact centre, online consumer research panels and engagement and consultations on regulatory changes.

Consultation opens on high value ‘VIP’ customers

The Gambling Commission is seeking views on proposed changes to the rules operators must stick to when interacting with high value customers.

The consultation follows collaborative work with the industry after three challenges were laid down by the Gambling Commission to make gambling safer and reduce harm across the industry.

The challenges were to make faster progress in:

The Commission also published a report into the progress made by the industry in those areas (opens in a new tab) and the Commission’s next steps in relation to this work, including input and challenges from the Experts by Experience group.

The changes to the Licence Codes and Conditions of Practice (LCCP) are aimed at focusing operators’ attention on making gambling fairer, safer and crime free when transacting with high value customers.

Tighter measures to protect consumers during lockdown

The Gambling Commission has issued new guidance for online operators that ensures that consumers are protected. This new guidance follows evidence that shows some gamblers maybe at greater risk of harm during lockdown. The guidance includes the need for:

The Commission published data that showed the impact that Covid-19 is having on consumers and the industry so far. This data was collected through the gambling industry and YouGov surveys and shows that during lockdown gambling participation overall is down. This reflects the closure of land based venues and the cancellation of sporting events and shows only a small number of people starting to gamble for the first time.

However, while there is no evidence to suggest an increase in problem gambling, the shift in the market as a result of Covid-19 evidence shows an increase in the use of certain gambling products such as online slots, poker, casino gaming and virtual sports.

The majority of those gambling indicate that they have not increased the time or money they have spent, two thirds (64%) of more engaged gamblers reported that they have increased the time or money that they are spending on at least one online gambling activity including National Lottery products.

The data also shows that in terms of time spent gambling, while overall session length has decreased, there has been an increase in the number of sessions that are played for over an hour

In light of the risks that some players may be experiencing harm while in lockdown, The Commission has reviewed its current guidance. Online operators must now take account of the Commission’s additional guidance, which makes clear that they should:

The Commission will bring forward plans to consult on whether further targeted player protection measures are required on a permanent basis.

Gambling Commission chief executive Neil McArthur said: “Operators must use the data they hold to protect their customers and now, more than ever, it’s vital that online operators really know their customers by monitoring how long they are playing for and understanding how financial uncertainty is impacting them and what they can afford to gamble with.  To ensure operators do that, we are strengthening our guidance and expect operators to take account of that to prevent bonus offers or inducements being offered to customers who are showing any sign of harm”

Work was already underway to address many of these issues but this means we will now accelerate this work due to the unique situation that many consumers will find themselves in during lockdown.  

“We will continue to monitor and publish the data that we are collecting and we will take further measures if required. We are monitoring online operators closely and if we see irresponsible behaviour we will step in immediately, suspending licences if we need to.”  

Minister for Sports, Tourism and Heritage Nigel Huddleston said: "It is vital that people are protected from the threat of gambling related harm and I welcome these latest steps from the Gambling Commission.

“We will continue to monitor the situation closely and will not hesitate to take further action if required.”

Later this month the Commission will be opening a consultation which will propose strengthened measures around ethical product design, including reverse withdrawals and VIP Inducements.

Following the announcement of the lockdown and social distancing measures on 23 March, Mr McArthur also wrote to online operators to remind them of their responsibilities to protect consumers.

Nigel Huddleston MP wrote to gambling operators in April to remind them of their responsibilities during Covid-19, and urged them to give more prominence to safer gambling messages.

Read more about Covid 19 and its impact on gambling

Safety is at the heart of credit card gambling ban

The regulator of Great Britain’s gambling industry says the credit card ban will add another vital layer of protection for consumers.

In January 2020, the Gambling Commission and the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) announced the widely-publicised ban which means you can no longer use credit cards for gambling payments. The ban also extends to credit card gambling through e-wallets.

The Commission said it is an important step in protecting the 10.5 million people who gamble online from harm - with statistics showing that 800,000 individuals in the UK use credit cards to gamble. Research also shows that 22% of online gamblers using credit cards are problem gamblers, with even more suffering some form of gambling harm.

Neil McArthur, Gambling Commission chief executive, said: “This credit card ban will further protect consumers from financial harm and from today, nobody in Great Britain can use a credit card to gamble. It is a ban which ultimately reduces the risks of harm to consumers from gambling with money they do not have.

“The ban also comes at a vital time as we are seeing an increase in the use of some online products, such as online slots and virtual sports, and our online search analysis shows an increase in UK consumer interest in gambling products since the lockdown began. This highlights just how important it is for gambling operators to keep people safe and the credit card ban will help that.

“This is another milestone and we will continue to look for ways to make gambling safer.”

The Commission also reminded operators that they can only accept customer payments via e-wallets if those e-wallets prevent credit card use for gambling.

Some players may be changing their gambling habits during the Covid-19 outbreak and the Commission has also taken steps in the past week to remind consumers of how gambling operators should be keeping them safe when gambling online.

The credit card ban follows the Commission’s review of online gambling and the Government’s Review of Gaming Machines and Social Responsibility Measures. A public consultation was carried out between August and November 2019.

If you are worried about yours or someone else's gambling activity,
provides confidential information, advice and support for anyone affected by gambling problems in England, Scotland and Wales. For more information visit the GamCare website (opens in new tab).

Industry collaboration makes progress on safer gambling

A collaboration between the Gambling Commission and the gambling industry has lead to progress after three challenges were set out by the Gambling Commission to make gambling safer and reduce harm across the sector:

The work has led to restrictions and has prevented under 25s being recruited into VIP schemes. There is also a reduction on intensity of play such as the speed of spin and removing turbo buttons, and a joint effort to shield children and young people from online gambling advertising.

The Gambling Commission welcomes the recommendations made by the industry on safer products but has challenged the industry to go further.

The new approach to speed up progress on protecting consumers was set by the Commission’s chief executive, Neil McArthur in October 2019. Working groups made up of senior leaders from the industry were formed in January 2020 and concentrated on the use of VIP incentives, safer advertising online and the use of safer product design.

The Industry working groups featured over 30 operators co-ordinated by the Betting and Gaming Council (BGC). As part of this work, the Commission ran workshops with people who had first-hand experience of gambling harm, as well as collaborating with GamCare to ensure that its service users’ experience would also help inform any outcomes.

Those involved will continue to develop and implement the proposals, with some measures around VIP customers being implemented as soon as April 14 2020.

The Commission has launched formal consultations on these areas to ensure that the new measures are incorporated into its regulatory framework – which means that all operators will have to abide by the new consumer protection rules.

Neil McArthur, Gambling Commission chief executive said: “We have been encouraged by the progress on VIP incentives, safer advertising and safer products. We set these challenges in order to deliver real and rapid change for consumers in key areas of risk. However, it is important these commitments are implemented as soon as possible. It should not take months to implement safeguards many would expect to be in place already.

“By working together with operators and seeking the views of people with lived experience of gambling harm we have been able to make significant progress, although there is always more to do. We will now consult on the necessary changes to our rule book to ensure all operators have to meet the new standards.

“Whilst we are encouraged by industry proposals for making gambling products safer we now call on operators to implement those proposals rapidly; but the proposals do not go far enough and we will now consider what additional measures we should impose on operators.

“I recognise that the Covid-19 outbreak will impact on next steps and actions, in particular land-based operators. I welcome the fact that the operators involved and the BGC have remained committed to progressing this work during these difficult times. That is a positive sign of their commitment to make the industry safer.”

“Ultimately actions speak louder than words and any operator that does not put consumer safety first will find itself a target for enforcement action.”

How gambling companies keep you safe while betting online

Gambling Commission issues advice to consumers on how gambling companies should keep you safe while betting online.

In light of the Covid-19 outbreak and the government’s requirement to stay at home, more people will be engaging with online gambling websites. We have already issued new advice to all licensed gambling companies and outlined our ongoing expectations on them to keep consumers safe.

We want to do all we can to reduce the risk of gambling harm in this unprecedented time. The following guidance outlines the protections that are in place for consumers.

Guidance

Public Health England has issued guidance, advice and tips on how to maintain your mental wellbeing if you need to stay at home (opens in a new tab).

We will continue to monitor the impacts of Covid-19 on gambling. We will be looking carefully at gambling operators’ activities and any new risks to consumers and will continue to take action where needed to protect people from harm.