UKGC details collaborative progress on VIP incentives and safer products

Collaborative work by the UK Gambling Commission and in excess of 30 operators has delivered a pledge to make gambling safer by the implementation of a series of crackdowns across three core areas.

Work undertaken is to lead to restrictions and prevention of under 25s being recruited to VIP schemes, a reduction on intensity of play, such as the speed of spin and removing turbo buttons, and a joint effort to shield children and young people from online gambling advertising. 

Coinciding with the publication of the Gambling Commission’s 2020/21 business plan earlier in the day, it follows work carried out by the regulator with operators and senior industry leaders in recent months.

Regarding the usages of VIP incentives the industry has agreed to the adherence of a three pronged protocol that incorporates:

  • Restrict and prevent customers under 25 years of age from being recruited to high value customer schemes.
  • All customers must first pass thorough checks relating to spend, safer gambling and enhanced due diligence before becoming eligible for high value customer incentives.
  • Reward programmes will also be required to have full audit trails detailing decision making with specified senior oversight and accountability.

Safer advertising online is charged with reducing the amount of online advertising seen by children, young people and vulnerable adults. This includes a common list of negative search terms and suppression websites, better and more consistent use of customer data to ensure paid-for-ads are targeting away from vulnerable groups across social media platforms and age-gating YouTube channels and content.

Within a ‘safer products’ section the groups were tasked with developing an industry code for responsible product and game design.

Commitment on this front includes a minimum spin speed of 2.5 seconds on all slots, removal of game features which may encourage intensive play such as slam stops and turbo buttons, removal of split-screen slots which have been associated with potential loss of control, a more detailed work plan which will include in-game messaging and the creation of a Betting and Gaming Council Testing Lab to look into other game features. Publication of the final code in anticipated to be in September 2020.

Neil McArthur, Gambling Commission chief executive, explained: “We have been encouraged by the progress on VIP incentives, safer advertising and safer products. We set these challenges in order to deliver real and rapid change for consumers in key areas of risk. 

“However, it is important these commitments are implemented as soon as possible. It should not take months to implement safeguards many would expect to be in place already. 

“By working together with operators and seeking the views of people with lived experience of gambling harm we have been able to make significant progress, although there is always more to do. We will now consult on the necessary changes to our rule book to ensure all operators have to meet the new standards.

“Whilst we are encouraged by industry proposals for making gambling products safer we now call on operators to implement those proposals rapidly; but the proposals do not go far enough and we will now consider what additional measures we should impose on operators.”

Those involved in the work will continue to develop and rapidly implement the proposals, with some measures around VIP customers being implemented as soon as April 14.

The Commission will now launch formal consultations on these areas to ensure that the new measures are incorporated into its regulatory framework – which means that all operators will have to abide by the new consumer protection rules. 

Brigid Simmonds, chairman of the new standards body the Betting and Gaming Council, commented: “I am pleased with our members’ hard work and continued commitment to delivering substantial progress on the three safer gambling challenges set by the Gambling Commission on high value customers, advertising and game design. 

“The progress reported today including restricting under 25’s from qualifying for high value customer accounts; strengthened advertising rules and games with slower speeds and the removal of some functionality comes despite difficult operating circumstances during the COVID-19 crisis. 

“These measures, along with our recently announced 10 pledge action plan for COVID-19 safer gambling and our 22 industry safer gambling commitments will significantly transform and improve the environment for our customers and the wider public. We agree with the Gambling Commission that there is still more work to do and we will rise to the ongoing challenge.”