Gambling Minister, Paul Scully, attempted to fan the flames of concern around affordability checks as he claims the DCMS recognises the efforts made by the UK betting sector to address player protection concerns.
Whilst addressing the Betting and Gaming Council (BGC) AGM yesterday, the Minister for Tech and the Digital Economy stated that he would not disclose the full outcomes of the review.
However, he stated that the use of the phrase ‘affordability checks’ – which has become somewhat of a pariah to many in the industry and sports linked to it such as horse racing – was not the correct term of the measures.
“That word suggests that the government or Gambling Commission are going to set rules on how much people can ‘afford’ to gamble,” he explained.
“A one size fits all approach is not the intention here. It may be more accurate to call them ‘financial risk’ checks – checking that a higher than usual level of spend is not itself an indicator of harm.”
The government’s and Commission’s main area of concern, he continued, is cases of ‘particularly vulnerable losses’ who can be harmed even by small losses, such as those who have been declared bankrupt.
As such, the new ‘finance risk checks’ would examine whether or not a person is financially stable enough to gamble, without being overly intrusive into the backgrounds of a wider range of consumers.
Scully argued that there is a need for existing measures, which examine factors such as debt and losses, to be expanded so that other areas are considered.
He said: “I also think ‘financial risk’ is a more appropriate term as a consideration of financial circumstances can only ever reveal that one type of risk – financial.”
If the Minister’s speech is anything to go by, ‘financial risk checks’ can be all but guaranteed as an outcome of the review, as he explained how the measures will be implemented following the White Paper.
The industry can expect consultations in ‘the coming months’ with a goal to ‘nail down and test the logistics’ for the checks, design data safeguards, and establish a framework for identifying and addressing financial risks.
For land-based operators, who Scully noted were particularly at risk to difficult economic conditions, can expect to meet the Minister ‘in the coming weeks’.
He reiterated: “We want to make common sense changes to update the rules, preserving safeguards that do protect against gambling harm, but replacing unnecessarily restrictive controls with ones which make things better for customers and businesses.”
Lastly, earlier in his speech Sculy reiterated that the White Paper will not be ‘the final word’ on UK gambling reform, with continuing consultations with the DCMS and Gambling Commission due.
The industry must ‘stay engaged’, he emphasised, as policies are ‘refined, finalised and implemented’ following the legislative overhaul.
As mentioned above, affordability checks have been a major area of concern for operators – as well as some horse racing stakeholders – over the past two years.
The BGC itself has often cited the measures as having the potential to drive customers towards black market operators by being overly intrusive.
Scully’s speech to the trade association attempted to dispel these concerns. Instead, the Minister argued, the Gambling Act review represents an opportunity for policymakers and stakeholders to ‘build this country’s status as a world leader in gambling policy’.