UKGC calls for extra operator vigilance after assessing December data

The UK Gambling Commission has stated that “extra operator vigilance is needed during the current national lockdown,” after reviewing further data on the impact of tightened restrictions on online gambling behaviour in the region.

Data for December, acknowledged as a “traditionally busy period,” sees the overall number of total bets/spins increase by 12 per cent from November, while the number of active players rose six per cent.

Gross gambling yield jumped by 30 per cent to almost £614m between November and December, driven by both growth in player numbers and an increase in operator margins for real event betting.

The regulator also reports that slots GGY increased by 13 per cent to nearly £200m during the period, with the number of bets rising by 12 per cent to almost six billion and the number of active accounts up six per cent to almost three million, both of which are said to be “the highest from within the COVID-19 pandemic period”.

The number of online slots sessions lasting longer than an hour increased by 11 per cent to 2.5 million in November to December. The average session length decreased slightly to 21.5 minutes, with around eight per cent lasting in excess of one hour.

The total number of customer interactions undertaken fell by three per cent, the first decrease since March 2020, of which the majority were automated in nature. 

Operator data indicates that, during December, the proportion of those interactions that were direct contact from staff has risen slightly to four per cent.

The UKGC, which last month reminded operators of the need to ensure “that you are protecting your customers during this difficult time,” has said that, against the background of data and experience of the pandemic thus far, a heightened level of operator vigilance is required.

This, it says, is because: 

  • Most people will be spending more time at home and online and many people are likely to be feeling more isolated and vulnerable as a result of the length of the pandemic period, the new restrictions and further uncertainty about their personal or financial circumstances.
  • Some consumers, such as highly engaged gamblers who play a range of products, are likely to spend more time, and money gambling and the fact that sport will continue during this lockdown will mean there are more opportunities for betting customers to gamble.
  • Some people may gamble for the first time.

The Commission also reasserted its expectation of the responsibilities of online operations, which includes a reminder to continue following strengthened guidance issued during the first lockdown, and taking close interest in data that shows consumers expanding their portfolio of games and spending more time or money than before.  

The need to interact directly where triggers are reached, as well as more generic email engagement, is also detailed, as well as the necessity to “avoid any temptation to exploit the current situation for marketing purposes and be very cautious when seeking to cross-sell products”.

The need to take particular care when on-boarding new customers and making decisions over affordability checks, “which reflect the environment we are in,” was also stressed.