The UK Gambling Commission has pledged to make online gaming safer and fairer for consumers after unveiling an updated list of rules for operators.
Published following an open consultation, the new regulations require operators to verify customers’ age and identity details faster.
Licensed operators must now complete all verification checks before a customer can make a deposit, place a bet – either with their own money or bonus funds – or access free-to-play versions of online games.
Previously, consumers could make deposits and place bets for up to 72 hours while the operator carried out age verification checks. However, they could not withdraw funds in this period and the operator was required to return any stake funds if the player was found to be underage.
In changing this rule, the Commission said it will help guard against the risk of children gambling online.
Meanwhile, the Commission has also made a series of changes to the verification process for withdrawing funds. This comes in response to a CMA report last year that identified a level of dissatisfaction among some consumers about having to provide additional identity information when withdrawing money.
Under the new rules, remote licensees are required to, as a minimum, verify the name, address and date of birth of a customer before allowing them to gamble. If any additional information is required the operator should request this as soon as possible after the initial verification.
Licensed operators should also inform customers – before they can deposit funds – of the types of identity documents or other information that might be required, the circumstances in which this information may be required, and how it should be supplied.
In addition, the Commission said operators must take reasonable steps to ensure information on their customers’ identities remains accurate.
The regulator said the changes will help operators better prevent harm or detect criminal activity, as they will have more information about their customers, and also help licensees identify players that are trying to gamble while self-excluded.
Gambling Commission chief executive Neil McArthur said: “These changes will protect children and the vulnerable from gambling-related harm, and reduce the risk of crime linked to gambling. They will also make gambling fairer by helping consumers collect their winnings without unnecessary delay.’’
Jeremy Wright, Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, in the UK, also backed the changes, saying they add an extra layer of protection for children and young people who attempt to gamble online.
Wright added: “By extending strong age verification rules to free-to-play games we are creating a much safer online environment for children, helping to shut down a possible gateway to gambling-related harm.”
The updated rules will come into effect on May 7, whilst the Commission will also launch a consultation on plans to make explicit its expectations about how to interact with a customer who may be experiencing gambling-related harm.
The Commission has made a number of announcements in recent months in relation to making gambling fairer safer for consumers in the UK. Earlier this month, the regulator launched an investigation into the use of non-disclosure agreements in operators' settlements with customers after claiming they could breach licence conditions.
This year, the Commission will also launch a new strategy covering 12 priority actions, ranging from consulting a culture of evaluation to piloting intervention.
Image: Santeri Viinamäki