People using online casinos and sportsbooks may have to undergo affordability checks if government proposals become a reality. A final decision regarding the proposals has yet to be made as a consultation is taking place.
Affordability checks are the most controversial proposal included in the UK Government’s gambling review white paper, published earlier this year. Depending on the results of the current consultation process, the government intends to make the plans contained in the white paper a reality. Affordability checks are a major feature of these plans.
The affordability check proposals contained in the white paper indicate that any customer who has a net loss of £1,000 across a rolling 24-hour period or £2,000 over 90 days will be subject to checks. These checks will take place every six months. The trigger amounts for checks when someone is under 25 will be £500 and £1,000, respectively.
The government believes that checking affordability could prevent an individual from falling into debt by spending too much money on gambling. However, these affordability checks, or “financial risk checks,” as the government prefers to call them, are controversial.
They are also unpopular with people who believe that protections such as those provided by the Gamstop scheme are already overly invasive. These individuals often prefer to use sites not covered by the gamstop.co.uk scheme, which are less restrictive. They believe that player protection should be about security and fair play rather than intruding on personal spending choices. They say that no one checks your bank account when you buy clothing online, so why should using a casino be any different?
If the checks do become a reality, which looks likely, the strictest ones will involve operators gathering personal data regarding their customers’ income, expenditure, credit situation, and financial health. In most circumstances, this information will be acquired using credit reference agencies. When this is not possible, open banking is likely to be used. This means that a customer would need to consent to data being shared between their bank and the gambling operator.
There are also proposals for lighter checks to be carried out. These checks would be triggered by a net loss of £125 over a period of 30 days or £500 in a year. Operators would conduct these checks using information in the public domain, such as the average salary for the area where a customer lives and for their occupation.
Right now, there is no guarantee that affordability check proposals will be implemented in full, although some operators already conduct checks of their own. The public consultation process began on 26 July 2023 and is open to comments from anyone who wishes to participate.
The consultation closes on 18 October 2023. After this date, the government will compile data and consider comments and objections to all proposals, including affordability checks. Once this work is carried out, we will be a step closer to understanding what checks will be implemented and when this implementation will take place.