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Gambling Reform under debate

On Monday 26 February 2024, Parliament will debate a petition that relates to the proposed financial risk checks for on-line gambling. The petition was launched by a number of bodies within the horse racing industry.

The petition in question, which attracted more than 103,000 signatures, stated the following “We want the Government to abandon the planned implementation of affordability checks for some people who want to place a bet. We believe such checks – which could include assessing whether people are ‘at risk of harm' based on their postcode or job title – are inappropriate and discriminatory.

By way of background any petition which asks for a change to the law or to government and which receives more than 100,000 signatures is automatically referred to Parliament for a debate.

The Government have already responded to the petition on 16 November 2023 stating: “We are committed to a proportionate, frictionless system of financial risk checks, to protect those at risk of harm without over-regulating. The Gambling Commission will set out plans in due course”.

The Government’s Gambling White Paper was published on 27 April 2023 to consider changes to gambling regulation to account for the new challenges of the digital age; to comply with its commitments as set out in the White Paper the Gambling Commission has launched a number of consultations relating to various topics which refer to gambling harm seeking to receive views from all stakeholders including customers and members of the public.

As the response to the petition demonstrated, there is strength of feeling in relation to the risk checks in particular.

The financial risk checks to which the debate on 26 February 2024 correlates, aim to identify vulnerabilities in individuals who wish to participate in gambling, by identifying where a customer might be subject to a bankruptcy order for example.

There will be financial vulnerability checks which are stated to be light-touch checks which, as proposed, will draw on data which is in the public domain and will not consider information such as a customer’s postcode, or job title. 

More detailed enhanced financial risk assessments will, as proposed, include checks which will be informed by credit agency data, and these will occur at unusually high-risk levels where the possibility for huge loss is greater.

The government recognise there is a balance to be found between respecting customers’ rights to gamble freely as they choose whilst also seeking to protect them from gambling-related harms.

Andrew Cotton, Senior Associate in Irwin Mitchell’s Regulatory and Compliance Group, comments as follows on the financial risk checks:

“The Gambling Commission confirmed last week that this consultation has attracted a very large number of responses. It has confirmed that its proposals on financial vulnerability checks will be implemented in a staged manner. In relation to the financial risk checks the Commission will launch a pilot across different sectors and involving operators of differing sizes. The pilot will run for between 4 and 6 months.”

The blog can be found here. It also confirms that the full response will be published in March 2024.

What to do next? 

We offer comprehensive legal services to businesses in the gambling sector. Our dedicated regulatory and compliance team is able to advise on all matters related to UK gaming, gambling, alcohol and events licensing as well as financial crime and financial services regulations.

To learn more about the consultations listed here and the latest regulatory requirements for your business, please contact Andrew Cotton