SBC News Legal Eye: White Paper... Where are we now, and what will come next?

Legal Eye: White Paper… Where are we now, and what will come next?

SBC News Legal Eye: White Paper... Where are we now, and what will come next?
Gemma Boore – Harris Hagan

Legal Eye, featuring Gemma Boore and David Whyte Senior Associates for Gambling at Harris Hagan, returns to examine the passage of the White Paper in the nine months since its publication. 2024 sees UK gambling stand at a pivotal juncture, marked by the diverse scrutiny, opinions, and feedback submitted in response to the proposed changes of the White Paper.

Boore and Whyte dissect the key dates, proposals, and consultations, highlighting how the Gambling Review extends its scope beyond merely updating regulatory measures to embracing the broader commitment of creating a fair, transparent, and accountable gambling market for all stakeholders.
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It is now nearly nine months since the publication of the White Paper on 27 April 2023, which was nearly 30 months in the making. Following its publication, the Gambling Commission was quick to manage expectations by saying that the implementation of the White Paper “will likely take a number of years to fully complete”.  So, where are we after nine months?

following the format of the White Paper, we:

  1. look back at the progress made by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport (“DCMS”), the Gambling Commission and the industry; and
  2. look forward at what lies ahead in 2024.

Progress with Chapter 1: Online protections – players and products

26 July 2023 – Two consultations were published by the Gambling Commission and DCMS to implement proposals to improve online protections in the White Paper:

  1. The Gambling Commission consultation (the “GC Summer Consultation”), which included proposals to reduce the speed and intensity of online products, while making them fairer and increasing consumer understanding about game play; and introduce new obligations on operators to conduct financial vulnerability checks and financial risk assessments to understand if a customer’s gambling is likely to be harmful in the context of their financial circumstances. The GC Summer Consultation also included proposals to extend personal management licence (“PML”) requirements so more individuals within a licensee would be required to hold a PML.
  2. a DCMS consultation on maximum stake limits for online slots (the “DCMS Stake Consultation”).

4 October 2023 – The DCMS Stake Consultation closed (extended from 20 September 2023 following the publication of incorrect problem gambling rates).  At the time of writing, we await the response. Sources have indicated that responses are expected in “the next couple of weeks”. 

18 October 2023 – The GC Summer Consultation closed.  At the time of writing, we await the response. During his speech in the Consumer Protection Zone at ICE, Andrew Rhodes confirmed that the Gambling Commission hopes to be publishing next steps on financial risk checks “in the coming weeks”.

29 November 2023 – The Gambling Commission launched a further consultation (the “GC Autumn Consultation”), which includes proposals to ensure that tools are available (such as deposit limits) to make it easier for consumers to manage their gambling and increase transparency for consumers if their funds are held by licensees that offer no protection in the event of insolvency.  This consultation remains open until 21 February 2024.

Want to read more?

Progress with Chapter 2: Marketing and advertising

19 June 2023 – The Gambling Commission published a new hub for operators engaging with third parties

25 July 2023 – As part of wider work by Government on online advertising and consumer protection, DCMS published its consultation response to the Online Advertising Programme.

26 July 2023 – The GC Summer Consultation was published, which included proposals to improve consumer choice on direct marketing by giving consumers more control over the direct gambling marketing they wish to receive.

5 September 2023 – The Betting and Gaming Council (BGC) published the seventh edition of the Industry Group for Responsible Gambling Code for Socially Responsible Advertising (the “IGRG Code”), which notably:

  1. extended safer gambling messaging requirements to 20% of advertising space across online and broadcast media (previously, this commitment only applied to television and radio); and
  2. extended the 25+ rule to all digital media platforms, including those which operate age verification processes.

Throughout 2023, the Advertising Standards Authority (“ASA”) has also been making full use of artificial intelligence through its Active Ad Monitoring system in order to review and regulate online advertising. Since August 2023, there have been at least seven rulings on gambling adverts, which the ASA states have formed:

part of a wider piece of work banning gambling ads which, under strengthened rules, are prohibited from being likely to be of strong appeal to under-18s.

18 October 2023 – The GC Summer Consultation closed.  At the time of writing, we await the response.

29 November 2023 – The GC Autumn Consultation was published and included proposals to ensure free bets and bonuses are more socially responsible and do not encourage harmful or excessive gambling.  This consultation remains open until 21 February 2024.

1 December 2023 – The IGRG Code came into force.

Want to read more? 

SBC News Legal Eye: White Paper... Where are we now, and what will come next?
David Whyte – Harris Hagan

Progress with Chapter 3: The Gambling Commission’s powers and resources

 23 May 2023 – The Gambling Commission published Evidence Gaps & Priorities, a document outlining current evidence gaps and the Gambling Commission’s approach to address these over the next three years.

26 July 2023 – The GC Summer Consultation was published and included proposals to change the composition and decision-making processes of the Gambling Commission’s regulatory panels. Note that this change was not proposed in the White Paper.

17 October 2023 – DCMS published its consultation on the statutory gambling levy (the “DCMS Levy Consultation”), which set out proposals for the structure, distribution and governance of the statutory levy for gambling operators.

18 October 2023 – The GC Summer Consultation closed.  At the time of writing, we await the response.

23 October 2023 – The Gambling Commission called licensees to participate in a user research programme aimed at sharpening the dataset received through regulatory returns.

22 November 2023 – The Government published the Autumn Statement 2023, which included proposals to change the structure of remote gambling taxation. 

23 November 2023 – The Gambling Commission published its first ‘experimental’ statistics from the Gambling Survey of Great Britain, which will become the data source for the Gambling Commission’s official adult gambling participation and problem gambling prevalence statistics in 2024. During his speech in the Consumer Protection Zone at ICE, Andrew Rhodes indicated that “an independent review of the Gambling Survey of Great Britain will be published this month”; while the industry can expect “full official statistics this year” and “more data from this work later [jn February 2024]”.

29 November 2023 – The GC Autumn Consultation was published and included proposed changes to the LCCP to increase the frequency of regulatory returns and standardise reporting periods across the industry and remove the current voluntary system for funding research, prevention and treatment, once the statutory gambling levy is in force.

14 December 2023 – The DCMS Levy Consultation closed.  At the time of writing, we await the response.

15 December 2023 – Although not specifically proposed in the White Paper, the Gambling Commission published a further 2023 consultation on 15 December 2023 (the “GC December Consultation”), which included proposals to update its Statement of Principles for Determining Financial Penalties to make changes to the criteria for imposing a financial penalty and the methodology for determining the amount of the penalty and add new key reporting requirements to the LCCP.

21 February 2024 – GC Autumn Consultation closes.

15 March 2024 – GC December Consultation closes.

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Progress with Chapter 4: Dispute resolution and consumer redress

The process for the appointment of a gambling ombudsman was timetabled to commence in Spring/Summer 2023. Government expects the ombudsman to be accepting complaints within a year of the publication of the White Paper. We are not aware of any public updates in this area since the White Paper was published.

Want to read more?

Read more in the following Harris Hagan blog:

 Progress with Chapter 5: Children and young adults

18 July 2023 – The Gambling Commission clarified its approach to vulnerability and its expectations of licensees, ahead of the publication of its updated customer interaction guidance for remote gambling licensees, which was issued on 23 August 2023.

31 October 2023The customer interaction guidance came into effect.

Read more in the following Harris Hagan blog: Gambling Commission publishes new remote customer interaction guidance

Progress with Chapter 6: Land-based gambling

26 July 2023DCMS published a consultation (the “DCMS Land-Based Consultation”), which included proposals to relax casino rules relating to table/machine ratios, improve age verification measures, introduce cashless payments on gaming machines and increase licensing authority fees.

4 October 2023 – The DCMS Land-Based Consultation closed. At the time of writing, we await the response.

Want to read more? Read more in the following Harris Hagan blogs:

What to expect in 2024

Open consultations – In the words of the previous Gambling Minister, Paul Scully MP, and as previously blogged by us, “[it is important for] the industry to stay engaged as policies are refined, finalised, and implemented.”  We continue to urge the industry to heed that imperative during 2024 and beyond, including on the following forthcoming deadlines:

  • 21 February 2024 – GC Autumn Consultation (on proposed changes to the LCCP and RTS) closes.
  • 15 March 2024 – GC December Consultation (on proposed changes related to financial penalties and financial key event reporting) closes.

The consultation phase is critical, with both Government and the Gambling Commission remaining under immense pressure to listen.  We remain happy to assist clients with their responses where that would be helpful, as we did in the last once in a generation opportunity in 2005!

Closed consultations and forthcoming responses – We await responses (including implementation timeframes) on the following consultations:

  • DCMS Land-Based Consultation (closed on 4 October 2023)
  • DCMS Stake Consultation (closed on 4 October 2023)
  • GC Summer Consultation (closed on 18 October 2023)
  • DCMS Levy Consultation (closed on 14 December 2023)

The Gambling Commission has indicated that the main reforms will be implemented by Summer 2024 but acknowledged that this is a “challenging timetable”.

What else is on the horizon?

  • February to March 2024 – Likely publication of Gambling Commission’s new three-year corporate strategy
  • March 2024 – Gambling Commission conference on illegal gambling
  • 1 April 2024 – LCCP GAMSTOP and suicide reporting requirements come into force
  • TBC: Although the following items are expected, the timing is currently unknown:
    • DCMS consultation on Gambling Commission fees
    • Expected introduction of the statutory gambling levy
    • Establishment of a gambling ombudsman
    • Official launch of the Gambling Commission’s Gambling Survey of Great Britain
    • Extension of Gambling Commission powers to tackle illegal gambling (“when Parliamentary time allows”)
    • Government review of the horserace betting levy
    • Government consultation on bringing remote gambling into a single tax structure

Want to hear more? Please sign up to the Harris Hagan blog to receive insight and commentary on the implementation of the White Paper during 2024, as well as other relevant industry news.

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