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  • Punters question UKGC’s affordability stats as 1,800 respond to consultation

The UK Gambling Commission (UKGC) has received some 1,800 responses to its ongoing consultations on the nation’s gambling policies.

In a recent speech, UKGC’s policy director Tim Miller encouraged active participation in the consultations and addressed various aspects of the ongoing debate.

The consultations, open until 18 October, are designed to fine-tune the implementation details of policies that the government has already committed to. 

Miller emphasised the importance of public input and the need to dispel misconceptions surrounding financial risk checks while shedding light on upcoming proposals.

One of the central topics discussed by Miller was financial risk checks, which have generated significant public attention and debate. 

He acknowledged that misunderstandings had arisen due to the complexity of the issues and the need for better communication. 

Miller also expressed concern about deliberate misinformation further complicating the matter.

This follows recent criticism by UKGC CEO Andrew Rhodes, who accused the Racing Post of providing “imbalanced” reporting on financial vulnerability and risk checks.

Miller, however, could not provide a specific timeline for reviewing the feedback it has received and formulating a response, noting: “We will continue to work at pace, but as we’ve said before since the White Paper was published, we are focused on getting it right. More haste, less speed remains the aim.”

GCF criticism 

While Miller reiterated that financial risk assessments would be necessary for only 3% of gambling accounts, the Gamblers Consumer Forum (GCF) has written to the UK Statistics Regulator and questioned the accuracy of this figure, suggesting that more than one million accounts may face enhanced checks. 

The organisation has raised concerns about the methodology used by the Gambling Commission and the government in arriving at the 3% figure.

“We believe this figure is being used to privilege a hypothesis that affordability checks will work, despite their unproven track record in combating addiction and the underlying fact addiction cannot be characterised by losses,” the GCF said. 

Better data

In his speech, Miller also announced that more consultations were planned for early winter and the following year, covering topics such as socially responsible incentives and gambling management tools. 

He also highlighted the 2024 launch of the Gambling Survey of Great Britain, which will provide valuable data for policymakers and regulators.

“When it’s fully rolled out it will be the largest survey of its type anywhere in the world, and will become the new gold standard for participation and prevalence data in Great Britain, with updated questions for the digital age and predictable, regular data for study. 

“We’ve been testing and refining the methodology since we published the results of the pilot and have been updating the stakeholder groups who helped us design it – from operators, academics and lived experience – along the way.

“Many of course are focused on what the new methodology will tell us about the Problem Gambling (PG) rate,” he said. 

He stressed that the PG rate will not necessarily be comparable to the current rate. “The key point is that it will be better data,” he said. 

“Better data will give us a better picture of what gambling in Great Britain looks like today.”

That, in turn, Miller stressed, will lead to better regulation.

The UK Gambling Commission (UKGC) is set to publish the first tranche of Gambling Act review consultations later this month.

UKGC executive director for research and policy Tim Miller announced in a blog post today (7 July) that the initial consultations will cover age verification in premises, remote games design, direct marketing and cross-selling, and financial risk and vulnerability checks for remote operators.

The UKGC has been tasked with leading consultations this summer on many of the key recommendations outlined in the UK government’s white paper review published earlier this year.

Alongside the four consultations mentioned above, two additional consultations will be launched, unrelated to the review but previously announced.

These consultations will address rules regarding personal management licences and procedures for regulatory panels.

The Gambling Act review consultations will run for 12 weeks, allowing stakeholders and industry participants to contribute their input.

The anticipated closing dates for these consultations will be in October.

Second tranche

In his post, Miller also mentioned that preparations for the second set of Gambling Act review consultations are underway and will likely be launched in late autumn or before the end of the year.

These consultations will cover topics such as socially responsible inducements and gambling management tools.

Pre-consultation engagement with stakeholders will be initiated in the coming weeks to gather data and discuss these topics.

Miller also wrote that since May, when the Commission last provided an update on its progress, several key initiatives have been undertaken.

The Commission has released a consolidated guide laying out its expectations for White Labels and published a three-year review of evidence gaps and priorities.

The Commission also plans to publish web content on its approach to vulnerability shortly.

Clear roles and responsibilities

It is important to recognise that the Commission’s efforts complement the work of the government, according to Miller.

As a key adviser to the government, the Commission plays a vital role in advising on legislative amendments and the implementation of changes, he stated.

Clear distinctions have been established in terms of roles and responsibilities, such as the government leading the creation of a statutory levy while the Commission handles levy collection and distribution based on the government’s direction.

The potential impact of a levy system on future regulatory settlements is also being considered.

Monitoring progress

Finally, Miller highlighted that the Commission continues to collaborate closely with the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) to support their work.

Additionally, the Commission is actively monitoring the progress of the gambling industry in fulfilling voluntary commitments, including the establishment of an ombudsman and the implementation of a single customer view.

“Full implementation of the review will be a job of several years, especially when you include evaluating the impact of any changes.

“But that doesn’t mean we don’t want to progress things as quickly as possible. We are determined to make progress at speed,” Miller concluded.

The UK Gambling Commission (UKGC) is now “fully focused” on implementing the regulatory changes as outlined in the government’s white paper review.

In a blog post published 3 May, UKGC executive director for research and policy Tim Miller confirmed the white paper delegated more than 60 areas of work to the regulator alone.

He admitted the gambling overhaul – which is the biggest in Britain since 2005 – would “likely take a number of years to fully complete.”

The UKGC has been tasked with leading consultations this summer on many of the key recommendations, from more prescriptive guidance on customer affordability checks to making online games safer by design by reviewing their riskier features and speed.

Despite the intimidating to-do list, Miller said the Commission was already targeting “rapid progress in a number of key areas.”

Slow and steady

“Already, project teams have been pulled together to start work on the various recommendations that the white paper has made and where actions have been set out for the Commission,” he wrote.

Many of the white paper objectives will be delivered through amendments to the Licence Conditions and Codes of Practice (LCCP) which are overseen and implemented by the UKGC.

Miller said the LCCP acts as the “rule book” for UK-licensed gambling operators and that the UKGC was legally obliged to consult on and consider any changes before implementing them.

These consultations are scheduled to begin in the summer.

Other recommendations, such as the reduced stake limit for online slots, will be decided by government consultation with secondary legislation set to be passed down.

“History shows too many examples of well-meaning policy changes having unintended consequences for the public due to the way they were implemented in the real world.”
UKGC executive director Tim Miller

“Importantly, these consultations will be sharply focused on how changes are implemented,” wrote Miller, insisting that questions of public policy had now been settled by the white paper.  

“Where they have, our consultations will not be an opportunity to reopen those debates,” he added.

While the UKGC is eager to make swift progress, Miller said the practical reality of the final changes should only come after listening to a wide variety of experiences and expertise.

“History shows too many examples of well-meaning policy changes having unintended consequences for the public due to the way they were implemented in the real world,” said Miller.

“We will not want to make that mistake,” he added.

The task at hand

Miller’s update comes after public criticism of the regulator in some forums following publication of the white paper seven days ago.

Dan Waugh, partner at strategic advisory firm Regulus Partners, said DCMS had put together a “decent set of proposals” while being interviewed by Nigel Farage on GBNews.

However, he added: “The most worrying thing is that a lot of this now gets kicked to consultation and will eventually be implemented by the regulator.

“It will happen outside of parliamentary scrutiny, and the regulator’s track record on these consultations is not very strong.”

Finally, Miller said an immediate focus on the white paper recommendations would not distract the UKGC from continuing to ensure compliance with existing requirements.

“Where gambling operators fail to meet our standards, we will continue to take action to protect consumers and raise standards,” he added.