From May 7, licensed igaming operators in England, Scotland and Wales will be required to verify customer identity before allowing them to gamble as a result of series of new controls.
From that date, operators will have to verify a customer’s name, address and date of birth at a minimum before the player can make a deposit into their account to gamble, and before they may use a free bet or bonus. Identity verification must also be carried out before an account holder is permitted to access free-to-play variants of gambling games on licensees’ websites.
This significantly tightens identity verification requirements, which had previously given licensees 72 hours to carry out age verification checks.
The UK government’s Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Jeremy Wright said the changes would add an extra layer of protection for children and young people.
“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,” he said.
They will also have to promptly ask for any additional verification information required from individuals. Upon registering, operators will have to inform customers of the types of identity documents or other information that may be required, the circumstances in which such information may be required, and how it should be supplied. Licensees will also be required to take reasonable steps to ensure information pertaining to each customer’s identity remains accurate.
These additional changes have been introduced after the Gambling Commission revealed in March last year that some online operators were ordering customers to supply additional identity information before allowing them to withdraw winnings. At the time it noted that around 15% of complaints it received related to this issue.
The regulator said that the changes would help operators better prevent harm and detect criminal activity by ensuring they have more information about their customers. It will also stop licensees from having customer submit ID documents as a condition of withdrawing money, as they would have had an opportunity to ask for the relevant documents at the registration stage.
In addition, the Gambling Commission noted that these changes would increase the likelihood of a self-excluded player being identified should they attempt to set up a new account. By tightening the registration requirements, the Commission explained, customers would have to submit correct data in order to gamble. This, it said, could then be checked against operators’ own self-exclusion database and the UK’s national self-exclusion register Gamstop.
“These changes will protect children and the vulnerable from gambling-related harm, and reduce the risk of crime linked to gambling,” Gambling Commission chief executive Neil McArthur said. “They will also make gambling fairer by helping consumers collect their winnings without unnecessary delay.’’
“Britain’s online gambling market is the largest regulated market in the world and we want to make sure it is the safest and the fairest. Today’s changes follow our review of online gambling and our ongoing widespread regulatory action into the online sector. We will keep using our powers to raise standards for consumers.”