Neil McArthur

UKGC outlines new measures to strengthen industry code

Further to publishing its ‘2020/21 Business Plan’, the UK Gambling Commission has today outlined a set of new collaborative measures and directives to strengthen its industry code and further reduce problem gambling harms.

This afternoon, the UKGC published its new action plan on VIP Programmes, product design and further advertising practices, underlining that the directives have been designed to accelerate a critical agenda to protect vulnerable customers.

The UKGC detailed that it has developed its new protective measures in cooperation with ‘industry working groups’ featuring executives of 30 UK operators, co-ordinated by the Betting and Gaming Council (BGC).

The first item of the UKGC’s agenda sees a number of changes to VIP programmes and incentives. ‘Certain measures’ are to be implemented from 14 April, including:

  • Restrict and prevent customers under 25 years of age from being recruited to high-value customer schemes
  • All customers must be cross-referenced with the appropriate spend, safer gambling and enhanced due diligence measures before qualifying for schemes
  • All operator reward programmes must be fully audited, detailing ‘decision making’ and demonstrate senior oversight and accountability.

Protecting younger audiences, the UKGC has moved forward on its AdTech initiatives, which sees it call on the industry to implement the following by July 2020:

  • Indexing a common list of negative search terms (e.g. how do I self-exclude from gambling?) and suppression websites, which will help shield vulnerable groups from online gambling ads
  • The consistent use of customer data to ensure paid-for-ads are targeting away from vulnerable groups across all digital platforms
  • Ensuring that all gambling-related pay-per-click advertising targets consumer +25 age across all web engines, directories and social media platforms
  • The requirement of ‘age-gating’ YouTube channels featuring gambling-related content
  • Adopting a ‘code of conduct’ for affiliates which will be updated on a regular basis to ensure all measures undertaken by the industry will be implemented equally by advertising partners.

The UKGC confirms that its new advertising measures will be enshrined in the IGRG’s Gambling Industry Code for Socially Responsible Advertising.

Supporting its future advertising policy, the UKGC has formed a cross-industry ‘Adtech Forum’ to ensure incumbents are making further progress in this area, including conducting and evaluating trials of advertising technology.

UK gambling will also progress to a new code for developing safer products, focusing on game design and the development of safety features. The Commission will publish its product code in September, but details that operators will adhere to:

  • A minimum spin speed of 2.5 seconds across all slot games
  • Removal of game features which may encourage intensive play such as slam stops and turbo buttons
  • Prohibiting split-screen slots which have been associated with a ‘potential loss of control’.
  • The development of a  more detailed work plan which will include in-game messaging and the creation of a Betting and Gaming Council Testing Lab to look into other game features.

The Commission will launch ‘formal consultations’ on the above areas to ensure that new measures can be effectively incorporated within its governance frameworks.

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.

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