Neil McArthur

Neil McArthur: Operators must ensure highest standards during new lockdown

Neil McArthur, Chief Executive of the UK Gambling Commission (UKGC), has reiterated the government’s stance that licensed operators must ensure the highest operating standards and customer protections during the ongoing November lockdown. 

McArthur issued a personal statement to betting leadership as the UK entered its second national lockdown last week, underlining that the highest expectations had been placed on online gambling licensees operating during unsettling times for the general public. 

Since March’s emergency proceedings, McArthur stated that the UKGC had gained a ‘clearer picture on the impacts of lockdown on mental health and well-being’ – a key concern as November’s lockdown will see significant numbers of workers in retail and hospitality remaining at home for the next four weeks.

He said: “We expect you to be very mindful that customers may be vulnerable and experiencing financial uncertainty, whilst others may be experiencing other effects of being isolated including, for example, feelings of anxiety, loneliness or boredom.”

McArthur added that it was imperative for online gambling licensees to uphold the UKGC’s emergency guidance issued last May, in which operators were ordered to increase all-round provisions related to “customer interaction rules around affordability checks, the prevention of reverse withdrawals and restrictions on bonus offers”.  

Entering a further national lockdown, McArthur reemphasised that ‘consumer protections must be paramount’ with licence holders upholding their duties with regards to individual customer affordability checks operated alongside increased social responsibility interactions. 

“It is vital that all operators play their part in keeping their customers safe and we will be continuing to conduct our compliance assessments during this month-long lockdown,” McArthur said.

Responsible marketing was highlighted as a further paramount condition, with the UKGC stressing that it would hold zero tolerance towards operators that ‘exploit that current situation for marketing purposes’.

Operators were also warned to take additional caution when cross-selling products to customers and that they held responsibilities on affiliates promoting their products and services.

McArthur warned leadership of their duties towards their licensing conditions, which dictate operators must act in a way that minimises the risks to the licensing objectives.

He concluded: “You must work with the Commission in an open and co-operative way and act in accordance with both the letter or the spirit of the regulatory framework we have set.

“The gambling industry and daily life as a whole continues to be impacted by Covid-19 and during this time I want to ensure operators are both supported and aware of the expectations I have outlined above.

“We continue to be in touch with the Government and our colleagues at DCMS and I will provide further updates when required.”

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