From Tuesday May 7 onwards, new age and identity verification rules will be applied on all gaming sites within the UK. The UK Gambling Commission (UKGC) watchdog floated the proposed changes earlier in the year and, having successfully tackled the FOBT issue, have revisited their plans to introduce better age verification controls. The new rules have been drafted according to an open consultation and are designed to enforce stricter applications of age and identity verification mechanisms by gaming operators.
The changes to the Licence Conditions and Codes of Practice (LCCP) will affect remote betting and gaming operators, including lotteries. The UKGC will demand operators apply these changes themselves while the regulator will make sure that the measures are enforced. These changes include new minimum requirements for identity, address and age verification for remote betting and gaming and some remote lotteries.
What all of the above means is that if a provider has not verified the name, address and date of birth of a customer, then they will need to have done so before any gambling has, or can, take place. Verification is likely to require a photo ID such as a passport or driving licence and a recent utility bill with your current address clearly displayed. This should, it is thought, prevent unverified customers from gambling until their verification has been properly and accurately processed.
It is worth noting, that operators have no right to access or withhold funds on any existing accounts left unverified. Previously, players were granted 72 hours to send in age verification documents before they were able to deposit and play. In 2018, the Competitions and Markets Authority’s action in the remote sector ruled that customers are entitled to any monies that have been deposited into their accounts. The same applies for bonus funds and winnings.
Furthermore, the customer is afforded greater protection as their ID will be verified before they begin to play. Traditionally, customers were often required to provide ID whilst their winnings were being held, a common cause for customer complaint. In fact, according to the UKGC, 15% of the complaints they receive are from consumers about this very issue.
The UKGC has even set its sights on third-party affiliation sites by installing underage prevention measures that go past real money games to include free play modes also. Under this new rule, operators will now bear the brunt of the blame if affiliates offer free play opportunities to underage gamblers without establishing prior age verification. If an operator knowingly accepts unverified traffic from an affiliate, that operator will be considered fully responsible, even the games were free play and no real money was wagered.
In their own words, the UKGC states;
“Operators must conduct themselves as they carry out activities on behalf of the licensee as if they were bound by the same license conditions and subject to the same codes of practice as the licensee.
The changes will help operators better prevent harm or detect criminal activity because they have more information about their customers. In addition, the changes will mean that operators cannot demand that customers submit ID as a condition of cashing out, if they could have asked for that information earlier”.
While the UKGC have stated what they want to see, they haven’t defined exactly how operators are to supposed to achieve said results. Rather, it will be left down to the individual operator to meet the requirements in their own way. As such, online bookmakers and casinos will need to stay on top of their game, fearful of falling short of the new legislation or face strict penalties.
As for online gambling affiliates, this could well mean lower conversion rates, their lifeblood, on newly acquired players from the UK. A lot of players will likely be deterred from opening accounts at new online gambling sites just to avoid the lengthy process, costing the affiliates money in the long term.
However, from the consumers point of view, the new changes will make life safer online, protecting from potential harms, particularly to those underage. Also, consumers will no longer have to wait for their money until verification is completed, as this step is taken earlier on in a player’s journey.