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Will New Affordability Checks Encourage Players to Use Casinos Without GAMSTOP Restrictions?


The UK Gambling Commission (UKGC) has confirmed the implementation of light-touch affordability checks for users of casinos that are UKGC-licensed. The regulator's statement also referred to a pilot study regarding more stringent tests.

The news of the checks is expected. They have been under discussion since the release of the UK Government's White Paper about gambling reform for the digital age in April 2023 and the subsequent consultation process that began in August 2023.

Initial decisions have been made. Light touch checks will begin in August 2024 and apply when a player reaches a £500 per month limit. These checks will only involve operators accessing publicly available information, like bankruptcy orders or certain debt histories. The limit for triggering these checks will be reduced to £150 per month in February 2025.

Recent announcements confirming the way forward with affordability checks have caused controversy. They are not popular with the UK gambling industry, and casino operators are concerned that restrictions will discourage players from using their sites.

This is certainly possible, as players have access to casinos without GAMSTOP restrictions that are not licensed by the UKGC and are therefore not subject to the affordability checks. Even light touch checks may persuade players to look outside of UK-regulated casinos to avoid restrictions.

However, any impact will likely be limited as the checks are not overly invasive. This situation will change if more intensive checks are introduced. A pilot to evaluate the viability of these checks was announced alongside the information about light touch interventions.

The pilot will last for six months. It will assess whether available technology can be used to share data with casino operators. The UK government has promised that checks will be frictionless, and there is some concern about whether that is realistic given current technology.

Once the pilot is complete, it will become clear whether these concerns are valid. The pilot results will show how easy it is to conduct frictionless financial risk assessments of player activity. Once they have this information, the UKGC will be able to make informed decisions about the next steps to take.

Regulators realize that they must maintain a balance between protecting people who use casinos and recognizing freedom of choice for adults who want to participate in gambling. When the pilot period ends, the UKGC will make a final decision about whether to implement these checks permanently.

In the meantime, the Betting & Gaming Council (BGC) has introduced voluntary affordability checks in the industry. The figures at which these checks are triggered are significantly higher than those indicated by the UKGC, at £5,000 spent in one month of gambling or £25,000 spent in any twelve-month rolling period.

These BGC checks are unlikely to deter many people from using casinos licensed in the UK. However, if the UKGC announces more intensive checks after the pilot is completed, it will make it more likely that players will move their business to sites that are not subject to UKGC restrictions.

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