The UK Gambling Commission has rolled-out strict new guidance for operators in a bid to “clean up the malpractice of so-called VIP schemes”.

Identifying the schemes as a key area of change earlier in the year, the regulator states that if its new guidance is followed there should be no irresponsible incentivisation of high value customers in the future.

This means that, from October 31, before a customer attains VIP status operators must first establish that spending is affordable and sustainable as part of the customer’s leisure spend, and assess whether there is evidence of gambling related harm, or heightened risk linked to vulnerability.

Furthermore, evidence must be up to date regarding identity, occupation and source of funds, with information provided continually verified and ongoing gambling harm checks conducted.

The new guidance also means operators will appoint a senior executive who holds a personal management licence to oversee their respective scheme, making individuals personally accountable.

Neil McArthur, Gambling Commission chief executive, explained: “We have introduced these new rules to stamp out malpractice in the management of ‘VIP’ customers and to make gambling safer.

“Our enforcement work has identified too many cases of misconduct in the management of VIP schemes and this is the last chance for operators to show they can operate such schemes appropriately.

“We understand that the number of customers signed up to ‘VIP’ schemes has already reduced by 70 per cent since we challenged the industry to get its house in order, last year.

“Whilst that is a sign of the positive impact our innovative approach to collaborative working can have, these new rules are designed to ensure progress continues to be made to protect vulnerable customers.”

As part of the Commission’s work to strengthen consumer protection, the regulator has made addressing VIP schemes a priority after what it calls “repeated instances of failure to protect high value customers.”

McArthur vowed that further action will be taken should marked improvements not be made: “Operators can be in no doubt about our expectations. If significant improvements are not made, we will have no choice but to take further action and ban such schemes. 

“These new rules are part of the Commission’s comprehensive programme of tougher enforcement and compliance activity which has also seen the introduction strengthened protections around online age and ID verification, improved customer interaction practices, and the banning of gambling on credit cards.”

Earlier this year the UKGC launched its consultation on VIP customers which looked at seven new propositions suggested by a working group led by the Betting and Gaming Council and GVC, aiming to make gambling safer and reduce harm across the sector.

This followed a challenge issued by the regulator to make faster progress in raising standards in relation to VIP incentives, responsible product and game design, and online advertising.