Determining what activities are actually considered as gambling could be among the UK’s most sweeping changes to come out of the government’s impending 2005 Gambling Act review.

With safer gambling and player protection also highlighted as central focal points, the presence of loot boxes within console gaming could well gain a prominent place in the spotlight, says Amber Gaming.

“We envisage the upcoming review of the Gambling Act to include prescriptive measures relating to safer gambling and player protection,” Rebecca Forrest, business development manager for Amber Gaming, begins by touching upon what could occur in the upcoming review.

“The latest Gambling Commission consultation is a sign of things to come, with the proposed threshold at which operators must conduct affordability checks looking to become more rigorous. 

“The ability to operate in Great Britain under a white label partnership could also see drastic changes, with obvious concerns at present that the system is being abused by operators who would not pass the Gambling Commission’s licensing checks to provide services themselves. 

“The most effective tools are those set voluntarily by players”

“The biggest changes that could, and should, occur may relate to what activity is considered as ‘gambling’. The use of loot boxes within games commonly used by children and young people, such as FIFA, Fortnite and Star Wars, and the potential links that these have to gambling could well see changes similar to that of the Netherlands, whereby a standard has been published to set out when they may be considered as licensable activity in an attempt to protect the young from being exposed to activity that could be a gateway to problem gambling.”

As alluded to above, measures regarding responsible gambling are also anticipated to be closely looked at, with a number of recent manoeuvres made by the region’s regulator a potential harbinger of a deeper shift.

With many tools currently available to help gamblers manage activity, Forrest continues by looking at which barriers she would deem as the most effective and helpful: “The most effective tools are those set voluntarily by players. 

“However, the player must be willing to do so, so it’s often well received when they are made aware of their recent activity, and posed with questions to make them reflect on their own actions and activity, which then makes them more willing to set their own limits. 

“Mandatory spend limits can be seen as patronising and overly restrictive and may see players going elsewhere to gamble. In terms of specific tools, loss limits are generally the most helpful, as players can set an amount that they would be willing to lose on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis, to ensure that their gambling remains as a source of entertainment, rather than encroaching on their ability to afford general necessities.

“…Safer Gambling Week provides an opportunity to discuss the importance of safer gambling”

“However, there will be occasions where players do not set their own limits. In these cases, it’s vital that the operator then steps in to enforce mandatory limits to help protect the player from experiencing gambling related harm. 

“This is why it is important for operators to have customer interaction monitoring in place, and ensure there are processes to observe vulnerable customers and interact with them quickly and effectively when it comes time to step in.”

Forrest has been making the comments amid the ongoing Safer Gambling Week, which began yesterday (Thursday 19 November) and runs for a seven day period, and where attention is subsequently focused.

“Safer Gambling Week gives the industry as a whole the opportunity to initiative conversations, share ideas and reassess what we each do to support players to gamble safely,” she says.

“This includes how this is communicated both internally within our businesses but also externally with the players themselves. To us, Safer Gambling Week provides an opportunity to discuss the importance of safer gambling within our own team, and also with all of our partners to facilitate increased awareness and discussions of this vital topic. 

“In the lead up to Safer Gambling Week 2020 and for the week itself, we are offering operators the opportunity to avail of a free regulatory compliance health check, which would usually be a significant undertaking. 

We hope that stakeholders in all areas of the industry understand the importance of safer gambling”

“This health check is completely confidential and tailored to focus on the operator’s responsible gambling and social responsibility frameworks to ensure they are fulfilling their regulatory and wider social requirements. 

“We welcome all members of the industry to take advantage of this free support and use it as the first step in their safer gambling journey. Taking part in this initiative is simple. All they have to do is complete a short survey regarding their internal policies, systems and processes to date. 

“We will then provide them with a comprehensive, bespoke report outlining areas of good health, those that require treatment and poor health including recommendations on next steps to bring the business into a state of good regulatory health.”

SGW is a cross-industry initiative to promote safer gambling in the United Kingdom and Ireland, led by trade associations the Betting and Gaming Council, The Bingo Association and the British Amusement Catering Trade Association.

With six key messages to be portrayed throughout the campaign, Forrest elaborates to detail what both stakeholders and the general public should take away from SGW: “For us, as with majority of all businesses within the industry, Safer Gambling Week is not just for this one week. This is something that must be taken very seriously 365 days of the year. 

“We hope that stakeholders in all areas of the industry understand the importance of safer gambling and the support available to implement it within their organisation. We want them to recognise the reason and rationale as to why policies, procedures and frameworks are in place and what this means in practice. 

The main focus is to view safer gambling as a mindset, rather than just a tick box exercise”

“It is common for operators to accurately record their policies and processes to promote their safer gambling efforts, but are unable to demonstrate and evidence this taking place. Through SG Week, we hope members of the industry can share their ideas on how to overcome this in practice, such as through ongoing staff education and training.”

Adding on the necessity to continue momentum built-up during the week into 2021 and beyond: “The main focus is to view safer gambling as a mindset, rather than just a tick box exercise. Every aspect of a gambling business should be focused on transparent, fair practices that protect both the players and the company itself. 

“And this may seem like a huge undertaking to refocus the business, but through continued staff education and training, it is achievable. It is common for operators to require increased focus and attention in their ability to demonstrate and evidence this taking place in practice in addition to their existing policies and processes, but it is a necessary part of the culture. 

“To support and promote this culture throughout all areas of the business, it is essential to provide ongoing staff awareness and training tailored to Safer Gambling to reinforce these messages and keep the conversation going all year round.

“This is why we developed our own successful training academy tailored to the gaming industry, which delivers a range of eLearning courses including safer gambling and supports some of the industry’s biggest names.”