UK Online Gaming Operators Banned from At-Risk Consumer Marketing

Posted on: April 14, 2022, 07:26h. 

Last updated on: April 14, 2022, 04:35h.

Ahead of the major reform of its gambling laws, the UK is implementing some changes. The UK Gambling Commission has presented new rules, including a provision that prevents marketing to at-risk consumers.

Andrew Rhodes
Andrew Rhodes, the head of the UK Gambling Commission, shown in his office. The commission is implementing new rules to further restrict online gaming. (Image: European Gaming Industry News)

The UK has embarked on a mission to drastically alter its gambling regime. New laws are coming soon, and extensive restrictions are likely.

Ahead of the changes, the UK Gambling Commission (UKGC) is implementing new rules it feels will appease authorities and reduce the potential for gambling harm. It will now prohibit online gaming companies from marketing to at-risk consumers, although it isn’t clear how operators will enforce the rule. One thing’s for sure – it will be an arduous task.

UK Gaming Becomes Overly Restrictive

The UKGC will soon provide details about how operators can adhere to the new rules, which take effect on September 12. Gaming companies will need to allocate more resources to monitor their users, determining their spending patterns, amount of time spent gambling, overall spending, and more.

Operators will have to monitor all of the data for all of its users in real-time. The UKGC expects them to respond to any red flags “in a timely manner.”

We expect operators to identify and tackle gambling harms with fast, proportionate, and effective action, and we will not hesitate to take tough action on operators who fail to do so,” states UKGC CEO Andrew Rhodes.

All of this is to ensure operators stop potential problem gambling before it becomes an issue, according to the UKGC. To support that goal, companies will have to cut off marketing to at-risk customers. They will also have to stop offering them new bonuses.

It isn’t clear how the UKGC expects operators to adhere to the marketing regulations. However, going forward, the operators will need to show the UKGC how it is evaluating cases and complying with all of the new rules.

UKGC Ignores the Science

UKGC boss Andrew Rhodes and the UKGC crew seemingly ignore the science. The group’s studies have previously shown that problem gambling, among some sectors, is lower than before. This even though the industry operated without increased restrictions.

However, Rhodes asserts that the rules are in line with new consultations and result from “careful consideration.” The decision comes as the UKGC receives backlash for pocketing £154.8 million (US$202 million) from the National Lottery that local charities were to receive. The commission argued that it needed the money to cover its “administrative costs.”

Data from Statista shows that the “problem gambling” group barely registers on the radar. A survey from last year showed that, for the 35-44 age group, 1.1% fall in that category. That’s the highest number, with the 16-24 age group registering just 0.4%.

A report last year from the UK government, using data from 2018, showed that the average rate across all age groups is 0.5%.

The commission isn’t done yet, though. When announcing the new rules, it asserted that additional changes would come. It believes that the new guidance will make online gaming “fairer” and “safer” for everyone.