GC working groups to ban players under-25-years-old from VIP schemes

The Gambling Commission’s working groups have announced new measures to help reduce gambling-related harm in the UK

As part of a series of voluntary reforms aimed to reduce gambling-related harm in Great Britain, gamblers under 25-years-old will be banned from joining gambling VIP schemes in the UK while those who can join the schemes will be subject to new controls.

The new rules for VIP schemes were announced alongside several new reforms to advertising practices and game design. This news comes after the Gambling Commission established three working groups in January to help tackle three aspects of the gambling industry; game design, VIP incentives and advertising.

Now that the new restrictions have been agreed upon, the Commission will begin consultation on adding the new measures to the Licensing Conditions and Codes of Practice (LCCP). However, the Commission expects the Betting and Gaming Council (BGC) members to prevent under-25-year-olds from joining high-value schemes within the next three months.

New VIP scheme rules

The VIP scheme working group, which was led by GVC Holdings, agreed that all customers under the age of 25 will be restricted from joining VIP schemes. On top of this, customers that are eligible to join a VIP scheme will be required to pass a series of checks in regard to spending, safer gambling and enhance due diligence, before they can take advantage of the VIP incentives on offer.

Operator reward schemes will also be required to undergo full audit trails detailing the operator’s decision making while specifying senior management oversight and accountability.

The changes to VIP schemes come after the Gambling Commission published figures in January which show that while just 2% of customers at nine of the leading operators are VIP players, they account for 83% of the deposits being made.

Changes to online advertising

The working group covering advertising practices was led by Sky Betting and Gaming also agreed upon several changes to advertising practices. These changes mainly aim to reduce the amount of gambling-related advertising material seen by children, young people and vulnerable adults.

These actions include putting together a list of “negative search terms” such as those that involve self-exclusion. The group also agreed that the industry needs to gather “better and more consistent” data in order to make sure advertising does not target vulnerable groups.

The industry group also agreed that pay-per-click (PPC) and social media advertising should only be targeting those over the age of 25 when possible. On top of this gambling-related content uploaded to YouTube must feature age restrictions going forward. Affiliates marketers will also be sent a new code of conduct, which the Commission said will be amended and updated on a regular basis.

In addition to the above, the working group said it will establish a permanent cross-industry Adtech Forum, which should “ensure an on-going focus on making further progress in this area, including conducting and evaluating trials of advertising technology.”

The Gambling Commission said it was satisfied with the points raised and the proposed measures and would expect them to come into place from July.

Change to products

The working group looking at game design, which was led by SG Gaming, a division of Scientific Games, and Playtech, agreed to set a minimum spin time of 2.5 seconds for all online slot games. The group is also committed to removing features that “may encourage intensive play,” which includes features such as turbo buttons.

The group is set to release a much more detailed plan of action in September 2020 along with a final code of conduct. However, the Commission said it believes that the group needed to do more work to reduce gambling-related harms in the game design area.

The Commission said: “The Gambling Commission’s view is that while some progress has been made, this work must now go further and faster, in particular around using demographics and behaviours to indicate risk. The Gambling Commission will now consult on the priority areas for immediate action as soon as possible.”

The Commission’s response to the new measures

The Gambling Commission’s chief executive, Neil McArthur said it was important that these changes were implemented quickly.

In the Commission’s announcement, McArthur 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.

“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.”

Brigid Simmonds, Chairman of the BGC said: “I am pleased with our members’ hard work and continued commitment to delivering substantial progress on the three safer gambling challenges set by the Gambling Commission on high-value customers, advertising and game design. These measures, along with our recently announced 10 pledge action plan for COVID-19 safer gambling and our 22 industry safer gambling commitments will significantly transform and improve the environment for our customers and the wider public.  We agree with the Gambling Commission that there is still more work to do and we will rise to the ongoing challenge.”

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