UKGC: Pilot test to take place for financial risk checks

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Tim Miller, Executive Director of Research and Policy at the UK Gambling Commission, has outlined the next steps for financial risk checks to help tackle gambling harms.

Financial risk checks were part of the proposals within the UK government’s gambling white paper, published in April last year, to “help identify and take action for customers who may be financially vulnerable.” 

Miller said: “We have been working closely with the Department for Culture, Media and Sport to ensure that the next steps closely reflect the intention of the white paper. That is, that the process of conducting these checks will be frictionless for the vast majority of customers who undergo them.”

Back in September, the UKGC posted a blog to address the misunderstandings regarding financial risk checks, proposing that light touch checks occur “at £125 net loss (accrued bonus funds and re-staked winnings would not be included) within a rolling 30-day period or £500 within a rolling 365-day period”.

Assessments would also occur when losses are “greater than £1,000 within a rolling 24 hours or £2,000 within 90 days (accrued bonus funds and re-staked winnings would not be included)” with lower trigger points for those aged between 18 and 24.

Miller noted: “As the government set out in the white paper, we have to get the balance right between protecting people from the potentially life-ruining effects of gambling-related harm and respecting the freedom of adults to engage in an activity that for the vast majority they do so without experiencing harm.”

Earlier this week, GambleAware published data showing public support for financial risk checks to protect people from gambling-related harm.

On February 26, a debate is also scheduled to take place in the Parliament Petitions Committee regarding a petition relating to financial risk checks for gambling.

As a result of recent consultation responses from the industry, the UKGC has decided to go with the following approach to the two forms of financial risk checks.

The light touch checks will be implemented in two stages, focusing on publicly available data and “will not require gambling businesses to consider an individual’s personal details such as postcode or job title”.

To help ease their introduction, Miller stated that these checks will initially have a higher threshold for a short time, before being lowered later in the year. Further details of this will be provided in a full response document.

For enhanced assessments, a pilot and data period will take place to “test the details of data-sharing in practice, working with credit reference agencies and gambling businesses, thinking always about what this means for the consumer” as well as “refine the data sharing processes before the assessments are rolled out in a live environment”.

The pilot will be conducted over four to six months with a selection of operators of different verticals and sizes to gather sufficient information for future decisions. Participants will not be expected to act on the data they receive, but they will be expected to protect consumers with their existing safety controls and stay compliant with regulatory requirements.

To enable the pilot, the UKGC will set out a requirement in its Licence Conditions and Codes of Practice to facilitate data-sharing and establish data protection requirements.

Data will be collected by the commission alongside the pilot to “inform the final thresholds and definitions of loss or spend for implementation following the pilot period”.

Miller added that further pilot and data period details will be available within the full consultation response, but five principles will guide the UKGC’s actions: 

  1. Consider pilot issues to refine final requirements and data-sharing models.
  2. Frictionless assessment for the vast majority of customers.
  3. Customer interaction process to assist those at risk of harm.
  4. Build additional gambling harm support and protections alongside financial risk checks.
  5. Understanding of consumer perspectives and experiences to help form a long-term evaluation.

Miller concluded: “At the commission, we completely understand why there has been such interest in financial risk checks. But it should be remembered that protecting people who are vulnerable, while still affording the freedom of others to gamble safely, is complex and there is no single solution.

“And that is why we will continue to take forward all of the government’s white paper proposals, which we believe can significantly support and protect consumers and improve overall standards in the industry.”