In October 2023, the Gambling Commission issued its consultation response on proposed changes to the Licence Conditions and Codes of Practice (LCCP), relating to multi-operator self-exclusion, notification of deaths by suicide and payment services. Following a review of the consultation published in February 2023, the Commission has decided to proceed with all of its proposed changes.
The three proposals the Commission consulted on were:
- Extending the requirement to participate in the GAMSTOP multi-operator self-exclusion scheme to any operator offering betting by telephone or email, including voice calls, email, SMS, and instant messaging services such as Whatsapp and Instagram Direct. This would involve amending the exemption contained in Social Responsibility Code Provision 3.5.5 so that the requirement to participate in the scheme applies to previously exempt holders of a remote general betting (limited) operating licence or an ancillary remote betting licence .
- Amending Licence Condition 15.2.2 (Other reportable events), placing a requirement on licensees to inform the Commission should they become aware that a person who has gambled with them has died by suicide.
- Updating the text of Licence Condition 5.1.2 (Payment methods services) to align with the current Payment Services Regulations 2017, as opposed to the 2009 Regulations referred to in the condition. The Commission also proposed that the wording of LC 5.1.2 be amended to future-proof the provision against any further legislative changes to the Regulations.
- The LCCP will be amended to introduce each of the above proposals following a review of the 77 responses received during the 12-week consultation. The amended version of Licence Condition 5.1.2 on Payment methods services will take effect on 31 January 2024, while the changes to GAMSTOP participation and notification requirements will come into force on 1 April 2024.
- We provide some further detail on each proposal below.
Proposal 1: Extending the multi-operator self-exclusion scheme to additional categories of remote betting licensees
In its consultation response, the Commission noted that GAMSTOP fees for 2023/2024 will be £100 for registration and an annual fee of £785 (excluding VAT), with similar fees expected the following year.
The Commission also acknowledged that some operators may have to incur additional costs to purchase software to enable integration with GAMSTOP.
The Commission notes that the overall costs associated with GAMSTOP participation may absorb all or a significant portion of the Gross Gambling Yield (GGY) for gambling business generating less than £10,000 from telephone or email betting services, and that this may result in some of these operators exiting the telephone or email betting market. The Commission suggested that on balance this adverse impact was justified by the increased protection afforded to consumers.
The Commission is due to run a webinar briefing and workshop with GAMSTOP to support impacted gambling businesses with the integration process in November and December 2023.
More than 125 gambling companies already participate in the GAMSTOP self-exclusion scheme, with more than 360,000 individuals currently registered.
Proposal 2: Reporting of deaths by suicide to the Gambling Commission
The requirement for an operator to notify the Commission when becoming aware that a person who has previously gambled with them has died by suicide is to be included as a Licence Condition. A failure to notify such an event may therefore constitute an offence which could result in enforcement action.
The potential for such regulatory action means that gambling businesses are advised to familiarise themselves with the new notification requirement under Licence Condition 15.2.2, which requires them to provide the Commission with the relevant individual's name, date of birth, and a summary of their gambling activity, if that information is available to them.
The new Licence Condition requires operators to notify the Commission of such an event as soon as reasonably practicable, where they know or have reasonable cause to suspect that a person who has gambled with them has died by suicide, whether or not such suicide is known or suspected to be associated with gambling.
Whilst the Commission acknowledges that death by suicide is complex and multifactorial, it requires notification by operators as soon as possible so that it can consider if there is a potential risk of regulatory failings that could further impact consumers. The Commission noted that the responsibility for determining whether a suicide is connected to gambling activity does not lie with the operator, as this may be considered in a separate coroner's inquiry. However, the Commission does retain the right to investigate where there is evidence of regulatory failings.
Some respondents were concerned that the inclusion of the term 'reasonable cause to suspect' may mean they are required to actively seek out information in order to comply. In response to these concerns, the Commission has clarified that it does not expect operators to actively investigate. The phrase 'reasonable cause to suspect' was included to prevent the omission of cases where the cause of death is more complex to establish or prove. This includes cases where death by suicide cannot be established without a coroner's determination.
The broad nature of this notification requirement is designed to ensure that more cases of suicide are consistently reported to the Commission. This will allow for a greater understanding of the potential harms associated with gambling and provide a wider scope for action. However, there is a potential risk that such a broad notification requirement could attribute an unfair causal link between gambling and suicide which could, in turn, result in more stringent regulation of the industry.
Proposal 3: Payment services – updating references to regulations
The amendment to Licence Condition 5.1.2 updates the provision's wording to refer to the Payment Services Regulations now in force. This change will not have any material impact on licensees' obligations under the LCCP. The updated provision will, however, be future proofed against any future amendments to the Regulations. It will read as follows:
Licensees must only accept payment from customers using their gambling facilities in Great Britain by a method which involves the provision of payment services as defined in Schedule 1 Part 1 of the Payment Services Regulations 2017 (SI 2017 No 752) if the provider of those services is a ‘payment service provider’ within the definition of that term in regulation 2 of those Regulations (or the equivalent requirements of any UK Statutory Instrument by which those regulations are amended or superseded).
Licensees' legal teams should therefore be alert to any updates to the Payment Services Regulations that may come into force in the future, as they may automatically be deemed to form part of the Licence Condition.
Access the Gambling Commission's consultation response.