Just like it is for many stakeholders in the industry, affordability for customers was a key topic discussed on a UK market-focused panel at CasinoBeats Summit following the recent release of the government’s white paper and its proposed changes for how gambling should be reformed.

Licensing expert David Clifton was joined by the UK Gambling Commission’s CEO Andrew Rhodes, RAW iGaming’s Chief Legal & Compliance Officer Dee Maher and Crucial Compliance CEO Paul Foster on the panel titled ‘UK Focus – mitigating the increased cost of compliance’ on day one of the summit.

As part of the Pascal Gaming-sponsored Global Casino track at the event, Clifton asked both Foster and Maher what stood out to them from the white paper. Foster mentioned the financial vulnerability and single customer view proposals, while Maher highlighted the deposit limits and the consultation process that needs to take place.

Both Foster and Maher noted as well that many in the industry want to understand the affordability topic in depth and have their opinions heard during the consultation process.

“People are still scratching around really trying to understand the changes that are going to take place,” Foster noted.

“In the last seven years, we’ve had a huge move from a kind of understanding what our customers are and who they are, to fully understand them, to very in-depth, very intrusive financial steps that have resulted in one our players not being very happy, and number two, they’ve been railing against it and often moving from operator to operator, which is never a good thing. 

“For me, it has been stated, they put some figures in there, interesting figures. I’m sure the industry will debate them. Unfortunately, we’ll have a consultation as well, so that will be the opportunity for the industry to say their words, but I think this whole area is key to businesses because a lot of businesses have been saying that they haven’t been making money because of affordability, which kind of isn’t true.”

Maher stated: “What I took up on it is the deposit limits and the discussion on having the mandatory deposit limits once a player registers. How effective does the commission think that will be? 

“Also the consultation process, will everybody be considered? Everybody’s view and not just the biggest shareholders, the biggest players in this industry, but a full consultation based on facts from within the industry, figures to support the view of what we would like to see as the end result and implemented next year.”

Rhodes reiterated what he said during his fireside chat with Clifton earlier in the day that the first set of consultations for the white paper is expected to be published later this summer in mid-July.

“Well, I do think the consultations will be more likely in July, and that’s what we’re aiming for,” he said. 

“There are some things that need to happen for that to take place, but we’ve always been preparing for this and we needed to see the final version of the white paper to know exactly what it says because it can change right up until the last minute because that’s the way politics works. That’s the timeframe we’re looking at and you’d expect a standard consultation period to take place.”

Rhodes was asked by Maher whether deposit limits were directly linked to loss limits, as a measure to gauge how much a customer can afford to lose. 

The UKGC CEO replied that through consultation, player-centric controls will be explored to find clarity and to make sure it doesn’t go against other controls that are in place. He added that due to the complexity, the consultation period needs to be completed thoroughly.

Foster said that part of the problem in the past was many companies produced their own definition of affordability, but now there is an opportunity to try and set a definitive answer that the industry must abide by.

However, he also stated that another impact the white paper could have is on the customer journey and making it as frictionless as possible, which is “the difference between a customer staying or leaving”.

Clifton then asked Rhodes if the UKGC’s consulting will ultimately create a finite definition of what affordability means in the UK gambling market. The CEO believes that they will be able to, but ultimately the definition varies depending on a player’s circumstances.

“I think we can handle this, but I expect a fierce debate about vulnerability because, to an extent, it is in the eye of the beholder.”

Clifton noted that technology could play a role in affordability, but Foster noted that while the technology is present to help with key decisions, the data to make sure the correct answers are achieved is not, and he recommended more “open source platforms” to help solve that problem, utilising data that is most applicable to a player’s profile.

Maher added that AI is a hot topic right now and that the industry is already using the technology with chatbots, and data is present as well from customer journey collections.

“We’re putting the right data set together can deliver at-risk results. You can predict exactly what the predictability is based on other people who have displayed signs of risks, and build that into your model, and then be better at offering a better user experience, that frictionless experience, the journey is not interrupted, and they’re having fun, which is what we all want them to do, be entertained by the system. 

“With the advancement in machine learning, and automatically, all the time updating from the information that’s coming into the system, will be paramount to an enjoyable experience for customers and while also, you’re addressing the human intervention on those high-risk customers.”

Facing its summer consultations, Rhodes noted that the UKGC aims to move towards a clearer standardization on assessing gambling harms, providing easier access to data

but different tech stacks in the market can slow down the collection process, adding that “we need to develop the technology and tools to be able to ask questions much more easily”.