UKGC imposes new age checks “to make gambling safer and fairer”

Online operators must implement a fresh wave of age and identity checks, as the UK Gambling Commission introduces new rules which are to come into force on Tuesday 7 May.

Following an open consultation the new rules are designed to speed up the verification process, benefiting consumers, and forming a change from current rules which state online gambling businesses have 72 hours to carry out age verification checks

Neil McArthur, Gambling Commission chief executive, commented: “These changes will protect children and the vulnerable from gambling-related harm, and reduce the risk of crime linked to gambling.  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.”

Under the new rules operators must verify customer age before they can either deposit funds into an account or gamble with the licensee, with either their own money or a free bet or bonus.

A clampdown has also been expressed regarding free-to-play games, with age verification protocols set to be in place to access such version on licensees’ websites, as the UKGC expressed that “there is no legitimate reason why they should be available to children”.

The changes, which it is states will also aid the detection of criminal activity, also see operators reminded that they cannot demand that ID be submitted as a condition of cashing out, if they could have asked for that information earlier.

Finally, an increase in identifying self-excluded players was stressed, “because effective verification by operators will mean that a customer will not be verified, and therefore unable to gamble, until they provide correct details. These details will then be checked against both the operator’s own self-exclusion database and the verified data held by Gamstop”.

Jeremy Wright, Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, added: “These significant changes mean operators must check someone’s age before they gamble, and not after.

“They rightly add an extra layer of protection for children and young people who attempt to gamble online. 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.”

A final set of introductions follows a number of complaints to contact centre staff, regarding licensees not allowing a customer to withdraw funds until they submit certain forms of ID.

The new rules require remote licensees to:

  • Verify, as a minimum, the name, address and date of birth of a customer before allowing them to gamble.
  • Ask for any additional verification information promptly.
  • Inform customers, before they can deposit funds, of the types of identity documents or other information that might be required, the circumstances in which the information might be required, and how it should be supplied to the licensee.
  • Take reasonable steps to ensure that information on their customers’ identities remains accurate.