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Rhodes hits out at affordability checks “misinformation”

| By Zak Thomas-Akoo
In a wide-ranging speech delivered at the International Association of Gambling Regulators (IAGR), Gambling Commission chief Andrew Rhodes led a blistering attack on the critics of affordability checks.
Gambling Commission Andrew Rhodes

Rhodes highlighted the controversy in certain sections of the press around the government’s approach to gambling reform, in particular financial risk checks, often dubbed affordability checks.

This measure is widely considered to be among the most controversial in the government’s gambling white paper and has been subject to a great deal of criticism in the media.

The Commission’s head said that misunderstandings around the checks have resulted from the complexities of the issues involved.

However, he added some others have resulted from a “deliberate misinformation designed to muddy the waters of debate and to torpedo the implementation of government policy”.

The Gambling Commission is currently receiving submissions about how affordability checks should work. This will be as part of new codes in the Customer Interaction of the LCCP.

The consultation is due to close tomorrow alongside three others. Rhodes said the Commission has thus far received 2,100 responses in total.

Rhodes updates on fight against black market

The Gambling Commission CEO also gave an update on the regulator’s efforts to stamp out the illegal market. In the past Rhodes has claimed the risk of the illegal segment in the UK is “overstated”. He repeated this position in the speech.

“While the illegal online market exists in Great Britain as it does elsewhere, it is not a significant concern and this position hasn’t fundamentally changed,” he said. “However, that does not mean there is no illegal market or no risk.”

Rhodes pointed to recent work. This has included increasing the level of engagement the Commission has with payment providers and financial institutions.

He highlighted the fact that the Commission has collaborated with internet search and service providers to de-list illegal operators from search results and geoblock their sites. The Commission has also worked with social media firm to remove posts promoting unlicensed offerings.

Rhodes also pointed to work with igaming suppliers to prevent access to popular products on black market sites. Additionally, the chief executive said the regulator engages with its licensees to stop their affiliates working with unlicensed sites.

Rhodes highlights 500% rise in enforcement action

Rhodes said this work has had “rapid effect”.

This included a 500% rise in enforcement actions across 2021-22 and 2022-23 and more than double the number of disruption outcomes.

The Commission said it is identifying high-traffic sites to ensure consumers cannot access them in the UK, either through hosting or geoblocking.

As such, between May and July this year, Rhodes said four of the top 10 illegal domains have been restricted. In addition, the Commission saw a 46% reduction in traffic to the largest illegal sites.

“But we aren’t resting there,” he added. “This month we will take another snapshot on the impact our disruption activity is having. You know as well as I do that so called ‘phoenixing’ of illegal sites, whereby a new but related website is created after you take down the original, is a problem and it remains so in Great Britain.

“What may have worked one quarter may need refining the next. And that’s what we are committed to doing.”

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