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Publishing its review of the online gaming market in Great Britain, the UK Gambling Commission has confirmed that the British industry now generates an annual gross gambling yield of £4.7bn, making it the largest regulated online gambling market in the world.

The regulator said in the review: “Consumers today have access to a wider range of online markets and games than ever before with few limits on when, where or how they choose to gamble.

“Consumers in general are increasingly accustomed to transacting online and this is also the case for gambling.”

Participation survey data from the Commission showed that, in the year to December 2017, 18.3 per cent of respondents had gambled online in the past four weeks, up from 15.5 per cent in the year to December, 2014.

The regulator’s industry statistics show that there were around 23 million active accounts in the year to March 31, 2017, which equates to approximately seven million individual consumers.

Mobile to account for 50% in 2 years

“We estimate that nearly 40 per cent of total remote GGY is generated through operators’ mobile channels and this is forecast to exceed 50 per cent by 2020. For some market leaders this figure is thought to be as high as 75 per cent,” the Commission said.

The Commission forecasts that online gambling will increase from 34 per cent to 50 per cent of the total British market by GGY over the coming years. The regulator then went on to identify four key issues for the online gaming sector to address, along with resulting key policy actions.

Age verification

On age verification, the Commission said it considered it no longer necessary to allow operators 72 hours to complete age verification adding that, in many cases, operators are already doing it before customers gamble. “We also have more general concerns about the availability of play-for-free games,” the Commission said.

“These games are not gambling – they are free and there is no prize. But they may encourage young people to gamble. These concerns also apply to gambling-style games that are offered by non-gambling operators (and over which gambling legislation and the Commission have no remit). At present, we have no requirements regarding access to play-for-free games offered by licensed operators. We think operators should be providing greater protections in these areas.”

“We will consult on amending the LCCP [Licence Conditions and Codes of Practice] to require AV to be completed on all consumers before they can deposit money and gamble, and for play-for-free games to be available only after AV is completed.”

Customer identification

The Commission said that many failings arise “because operators do not know enough about their customers at an early enough stage of their relationship.”

“In addition, we are concerned that operators may be treating their customers unfairly by requesting additional information only at the point where the customer has requested a withdrawal,” writes the Commission.

In response, the regulator is to consult on introducing a customer due diligence requirement “so that operators will have more information about their customers at an earlier stage.

“This would require players to be verified before they were allowed to gamble. We will also consult on requirements that would mean operators had to set limits on players’ spending which could only be increased once they had further verified information about the player, for example via an affordability check.”

Terms and conditions

The Commission and the Competition and Markets Authority launched a joint review of the online sector due to concerns about unfair terms and conditions. This review found widespread instances of unfair terms and practices in relation to promotional offers.

“The CMA is taking action in relation to several operators, and we will be conducting compliance activity to apply the same standards across the industry,” said the regulator.

Ineffective customer interaction

“Our work has indicated that although some operators are starting to make progress, there are still inadequacies in the online sector’s approach to customer interaction” writes the Commission.

“Some operators are starting to use data more effectively to identify potential indicators of harm at the earliest possible stage and provide effective support and advice to consumers to reduce it. But this needs to become more widespread.”

The Commission said it had recently published guidance to operators in order to raise standards in customer interaction across all operators and will build on this in teh next year or so with a consultation on amending the LCCP customer interaction requirement.