U.K. Gambling Commission Enacts Stricter Regulations for Online Gambling Operators

Less than two weeks ago, the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) of the United Kingdom announced imminent enforcement efforts targeting online gambling operators currently violating consumer protection measures.

On July 2, the U.K. Gambling Commission (UKGC) followed through on those threats, revealing a stricter set of rules and regulations designed to prevent iGaming operators from preying on players.

Sharon McNair, programme director for the UKGC, issued a statement outlining the motivation for enacting enhanced consumer protection standards:

“Consumers must be able to make informed decisions about their online gambling activity.

The findings of our recent consultation indicate that there are differences in approach amongst licensees in relation to the level of information available to their consumers and the ease by which that information is accessible. The new requirements seek to address this and ensure greater consistency in the information available to consumers regardless of who they choose to gamble with.

Gambling operators must see beyond the bottom line, and ensure both new and existing gambling products are effectively managing the risks to the licensing objectives, keeping gambling safe and fair for all.”

The previous statement issued by the CMA in late June was even clearer, directly accusing unnamed online gambling sites of unscrupulous conduct when it comes to bonus offers and withdrawal terms:

“There are concerns that some operators are stopping customers taking money out of their accounts. The CMA has been told by customers that some firms have minimum withdrawal amounts far bigger than the original deposit, or place hurdles in the way of them withdrawing their money.

The enforcement action addresses failings by operators around transparency and fairness of gaming sign-up promotions for new customers and practices around free bet offers.”

Per the CMA statement, iGaming regulators in the U.K. have received more than 800 complaints from customers claiming they have been misled or mistreated.

Sarah Harrison, chief executive for the UKGC, took aim at online gambling sites which rely on deceptive business practices:

“Gambling operators must treat customers fairly – but some have been relying on terms that are unclear with too many strings attached.

Customers might have to play hundreds of times before they are allowed to withdraw any money, so they don’t have the choice to quit while they’re ahead and walk away with their winnings when they want to.

Whilst the CMA takes enforcement action on how consumer legislation is followed, the gambling industry should be under no illusion that if they don’t comply with consumer law, we will see this as a breach of their operating licence, and take decisive action.”

To address these issues, the UKGC rolled out a four-pronged plan to tighten regulations across the board.

First, players must be granted direct and immediate access to at least three months’ worth of their account’s financial and wagering activity, while 12 months’ worth of data must be furnished upon request.

Second, such wagering activity information must be collated in easily understood terms over defined periods of time. In other words, if a player wants to view their transactions over the last six months, sites must provide a thorough accounting.

Third, players must be granted access to information detailing their net deposit activity, including a running account of all deposits minus all withdrawals.

Fourth, players must be allowed to dictate their own financial limits for their overall online gambling account, along with limits for specific game and/or wager types.

These four standards will be fully implemented by April 1 of 2018, while stricter regulations regarding the fine print furnished upon registration are set for October 1 of this year.