Know your rights: can you afford your gambling activity?
Ellis Jones Solicitors welcomes guidance published by the United Kingdom Gambling Commission (“UKGC”), which considers “affordability” an important criterion to be taken into account by Gambling Operators to safeguard their customers from the risks of gambling. This is something which seems obvious, but which has not generally been effectively implemented by Gambling Operators, who, in our experience, have regularly allowed vulnerable customers to gamble far beyond their means.
This is part of a wider investigation and overhaul of the way in which the gambling industry in the UK is to operate, and we foresee and hope to welcome a number of other substantial and much needed changes in order to tighten up this area of the law and to protect those who are vulnerable.
Operators must interact with customers early on to establish appropriate and informed affordability thresholds to enable them to identify vulnerable customers at an appropriate stage.
In its Compliance and Enforcement Report 2019-2020 (“Report”) the UKGC has repeated its call to Gambling Operators to reassess their triggers’ framework when assessing player activity and individual customers’ disposable income levels. The requirement to maintain such a framework is a legal obligation pursuant to section 3.4.1 of the Social Responsibility Code (SRC) and this was clarified by the UKGC in its formal guidance for Gambling Operators in May 2020.
The UKGC draws on the importance for operators to make use of open source data when assessing affordability for UK customers. As such, reference is to be had to consumers’ true level of available income. This is to be determined on the basis of customers’ gross income. As at the date of the Report, median gross earnings for full-time employees in the UK were assessed as follows:
- Managers, directors and senior officials: £862 (weekly); £45,000 (annually)
- Other: £585 (weekly); £30,500 (annually)
It has been recommended that customers wishing to spend above these levels should be asked to provide additional information such as payslips; P60s; tax returns or bank statements.
The above gross earnings are, of course, less expenses such as income tax; national insurance; mortgage/rent payments; telephone contracts; travel; food and utilities.
The Report makes clear that operators “must” interact with customers early on and set “adequate, informed affordability triggers”. As such, if customers are not being asked for affordability evidence ‘early on’, such omissions by operators may give rise to Social Responsibility and/or Money Laundering failings on the Operator’s part.
The level of interaction which should be maintained by your Gambling Operator
Under provision 3.4.1 of the UKGC’s Social Responsibility Code (SRC), gambling operators must currently interact with their customers in a manner which reduces the risks of harmful gambling.
In May 2020, the UKGC produced formal guidance for gambling operators to adhere to in relation to this requirement, in light of the increased risks resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic. Accordingly, operators must:
- Review all thresholds and triggers used to track vulnerability to ensure that they reflect changed financial circumstances;
- Review time indicators to capture play in excess of one (1) hour;
- Set additional or modify existing thresholds and triggers specific to new customers;
- Implement processes that ensure continual monitoring of customers;
- Conduct affordability assessments for individuals picked up by existing or new thresholds and triggers which indicate consumers experiencing harm;
- Prevent reverse withdrawal options; and
- Stop providing bonus offers or promotions to customers displaying indicators of harm.
How can Ellis Jones help you?
Ellis Jones has a specialist betting and gaming disputes team to assist anyone who feels they have been treated unfairly by gambling firms and/or lost money as a result. We have experience of dealing with and resolving matters in a number of different ways, and have been successful in recovering circa £2.5million for clients in recent times in relation to betting and gaming disputes. If you think that you have suffered losses as a result of a breach by a betting operator then please contact us on 01202 525333 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org to discuss your case and how we may be able to assist you in recovering your losses.