In the two years since the announcement of the Gambling Act review, the industry has followed breadcrumbs that claim to hint at what the review might address.
Chief among those might be affordability measures and harder checks on those losing £2,000 per month, while marketing reforms have also played a role.
But looking only at the expected topics covered in the review might mean missing a big one. The single customer view – a passion project of the Gambling Commission and BGC members rather than something being pursued mainly by government – might just be the biggest game-changer among upcoming reforms.
If implemented, it will allow operators to see the full picture of a player’s activities across multiple different accounts, giving them the power to intervene and stop a cycle of harmful gambling.
Until Liz Truss resigned as prime minister yesterday, the Gambling Act Review and single customer view shared similar timelines, despite the work being done coming from different sources. But now that the review seems certain to once again be delayed, the single customer view might get a head start.
In a sense, the resignation has paved the way for the Commission and the Information Commissioner’s Office – in charge of data protection issues – to give the single customer view more prominence as a measure of its own, rather than part of a large package of reforms. It now has space to be delivered in a more timely manner, one that could potentially pre-empt the review’s publication. And that makes it more important than ever.
The most recent update to the single customer view saga came earlier this week, when Commission chief executive Andrew Rhodes said that a trial would take place “in the coming months” – the most concrete update on timelines for a national scheme we’ve had to date.
The Commission has long spoken about the fact that it does not want to use the review as an excuse not to act and raise standards where it believes they need to be raised. Yet in certain areas, it has let the government take charge.
The regulator let the government take the lead on affordability measures, long ago scrapping the initial plans to introduce them unilaterally as proposed in a customer interaction consultation. That ensured there would be greater public accountability, but on the government’s timeline, which we have since discovered can be frequently disrupted.
But in prioritising the single customer review, the Commission has made it clear that this is something worth pursuing. This is a telling perspective and it’s the right one.
In the context of recent governmental turmoil, getting the single customer view in place is more important than ever. From a purely player protection standpoint, it can clearly make a huge difference, especially given the impact of the cost-of-living crisis on people’s finances.
But practically for the industry, getting the single customer view in place quickly but effectively could also be significant. If the Commission and the ICO work on ensuring an effective implementation, it could make the enactment of more stringent affordability measures smoother – creating an environment where it would be easier to address only those at risk of harm without needlessly affecting the wider customer base.
And if the industry and Gambling Commission – both regularly maligned by campaigners – can bring in a genuinely workable solution to reduce harm while the government continues to bicker, it would surely show that industry solutions can be trusted and the public should be more sceptical of government. Given that we are unaware of when the review will take place, a pre-emptive strike on problem gambling could be key.
While the single customer view shouldn’t be regarded as the be-all-and-end-all solution for problem gambling, its significance is clear. If there’s something concrete to point to in this area when the review enters its final stages, it could make a world of difference.