The UKGC published stern advice for online operators this week, reminding licencees of their responsibilities while COVID-19 continues to impact consumer behavior.

The commission restated the heightened vulnerability of new and long-term customers during lockdown and made clear that any violations would be taken extremely seriously.

“No one should be in any doubt about how closely we are monitoring issues or our willingness to take further action if we deem that necessary” said Neil McArthur, Chief Executive of the UKGC.

Troubling behaviours

McArthur outlined several new issues that are predicted to affect gambling behavior:

  • People spending more time at home.
  • Restricted lifestyles.
  • Uncertainty over personal/financial circumstances.
  • “Highly engaged” customers who may spend more time and money gambling.
  • New people who might gamble for the first time.

The Commission reminded companies to follow the stringent COVID-19 guidelines set out in its social responsibility code, particularly with regards to increased use of gambling services.

Specifically the UKGC encouraged companies to “avoid any temptation to exploit the current situation for marketing purposes and be very cautious when seeking to cross-sell products.”

Neil underlined that the UKGC will continue to monitor operators very closely and strengthen regulatory requirements, including changes to RTS and LCCP in the interest of consumer safety.

Sharing insights

Companies have also been invited to share insights – including original data and analysis – that could be useful in customer protection, as well as anything that could help the UKGC Statistics team make sense of the impact of the pandemic on the industry.

The commission also encouraged those who felt troubled by operator behaviour to email the gambling commission directly or use their confidential hotline.

McArthur highlighted the troubling times for the industry and the desire of the UKGC to continue to practice a good working relationship with its operators.

“The gambling industry and daily life as a whole continues to be impacted by the pandemic and whilst there is some light and hope ahead with the vaccine, I want to ensure operators are clear of our expectations. Since March we have all adapted to new ways of working and this new phase will be a challenge for us all. However, operators must now more than ever, continue to be vigilant to protect their customers.”

The message is clear; now more than ever companies have a responsibility to ensure they are complying with UKGC regulations, and acting to ensure the safety and wellbeing of their customers.

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