UK Gambling Commission

Latest UKGC Rules Tweak Tightens Underage-Gambling Safeguards

The United Kingdom Gambling Commission is back at it again in its never-ending quest to make the UK’s gambling market the most reputable and safest-for-customers in the world. In recent days, the UKGC has upgraded its existing safeguards against underage gambling, always a hot-button issue with the general public.

While the UK’s rules regarding underage gambling have always sought to prevent companies from making any profit from underage gamblers, a tightening in the rules covering age-verification checks is one of this upgrade’s highlights. Previously, UK-facing operators had been allowed up to 72 hours to conduct an age-verification check on any new customer. That’s going away, with the new rules demanding the age-verification process be completed before any deposit is allowed.

More Show Than Substance?

The change likely won’t have a dramatic bottom-line effect, because all licensed operators had already been ordered to unwind any and all wagers involving someone later discovered to be underage. The real purpose is to close the loophole that might allow an underage gambler to falsely register and play for what might seem like real money, and in the process creating problems to banks and other entities that have to untangle the problem, even if it’s reversible.

The Gambling Commission is also writing into stone its stance that free-to-play gambling offerings also fall under the requirement for pre-activity age verification. According to a UKGC statement, “The Commission is now also insisting that customers must be age verified before they are able to access free-to-play versions of gambling games on licensees’ websites. While free-to-play games are not technically gambling (there is no prize involved), there is no legitimate reason why they should be available to children.”

There might even be an upside, and that’s a lessening of Gambling Commission enforcement actions targeting games that are allegedly designed to appeal to children. Some of the most arbitrary rulings in recent UKGC history have been the ordering of bans on online titles that might reference classic cartoon or book characters. Most of these characters and game themes are designed to appeal to adults’ childhood memories, not today’s kids, but it’s one area where the Commission has wrongly adhered to the letter of the rule, rather than its spirit.

Delayed Withdrawals Again Addressed

Another area of change involves the standardizing of rules regarding customers’ withdrawal requests. It turns out that about 15% of the complaints the UKGC receives are because of operators requesting additional documentation before processing withdrawals. That’s because of the UKGC’s own rules designed to prevent money-laundering activity, but, well, don’t tell that to the customers; they expect speedy withdrawals no matter what.

Last March, amid a large, 63-page update, the UKGC addressed the issue of operators who appeared to have intentionally delayed some withdrawals, but this time, the UKGC is re-addressing the complaint-generating situation by requiring as much up-front gathering of information as possible. According to the Gambling Commission, the new rules will require operators to:

  • verify, as a minimum, the name, address and date of birth of a customer before allowing them to gamble
  • ask for any additional verification information promptly
  • inform customers, before they can deposit funds, of the types of identity documents or other information that might be required, the circumstances in which the information might be required, and how it should be supplied to the licensee
  • take reasonable steps to ensure that information on their customers’ identities remains accurate.

Neil McArthur, the UKGC’s Chief Executive, said: “These changes will protect children and the vulnerable from gambling-related harm, and reduce the risk of crime linked to gambling. They will also make gambling fairer by helping consumers collect their winnings without unnecessary delay.’’

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