The UK Gambling Commission has recently confirmed a series of measures aimed at protecting vulnerable customers from the potential harm caused by online gambling. Starting from August, online gamblers who lose £500 or more per month will be subject to additional checks. This threshold will be further reduced to £150 of online betting losses per month from 28 February of the following year.

In addition to the financial checks, certain features of online casinos and poker platforms that give players an illusion of control will be banned from 17 January. This includes:

  • “Turbo” and “slam stops”
  • Autoplay
  • Sounds and visuals that celebrate returns less than or equal to the stake

These measures follow the publication of a government white paper on gambling reform last year, which proposed several other initiatives, such as:

  • A mandatory levy to fund addiction treatment, education, and research
  • Affordability checks
  • New online slot machine limits

From August, gambling operators will use publicly available data to identify customers who might be financially vulnerable, such as those subject to bankruptcy orders or with a history of unpaid debts. Gambling companies could take various actions to protect these customers, including:

  1. Encouraging customers deemed to be at risk from harm to set a deposit limit
  2. Limiting the amount the customer spends, in more extreme cases
  3. Closing the customer’s account entirely, if necessary

The regulator also announced a pilot of financial assessments for customers at risk of losing large amounts in a short time, with the aim of reducing instances of rapid financial loss.

Charles Ritchie and his wife, the co-founders of Gambling with Lives, a charity that supports families bereaved by gambling-related suicide and campaigns for change, emphasized the need for early and effective intervention.

Carolyn Harris, a Labour MP who chairs the all-party parliamentary group on gambling-related harm, acknowledged that the proposals were a step in the right direction but called for stronger action on gambling sponsorship and marketing.

Andrew Rhodes, the chief executive of the Gambling Commission, stated that the rules were being introduced after a consultation process with customers and other parties. He highlighted the importance of balancing the protection of people from the potentially life-ruining effects of gambling-related harm with respecting the freedom of adults to engage in an activity that the vast majority do so without experiencing harm.

The new regulations mark a significant step in the ongoing efforts to reduce gambling-related harm in the UK. As the measures come into effect, it will be crucial for gambling operators to adapt their practices to ensure compliance and for customers to be aware of the changes and the support available to them.

The effectiveness of these measures will need to be closely monitored, and further adjustments may be necessary based on the outcomes. It is essential for all stakeholders – regulators, gambling companies, charities, and individuals – to work together to create a safer and more responsible gambling environment.

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