Betting shop layout must best enable monitoring for underage gambling, says regulator

Out-Law News | 14 Aug 2014 | 12:29 pm | 3 min. read

The layout of high street betting shops and casinos will have to be configured in a way which best enables gambling operators to prevent underage gambling, under new licensing conditions proposed by the industry's regulator.

The Gambling Commission said there are "major weaknesses" in the way gambling operators are addressing their statutory duty to prevent children entering their premises and in their compliance with existing social responsibility rules specifically aimed at combating underage gambling.

It said the licence codes and conditions of practice (LCCP) should be changed to explicitly require operators to give consideration to how the layout of their premises can combat underage gambling.

"The Commission considers that the layout of gambling premises should be designed in such a way that staff members are able to supervise access to the premises and to gambling products on the premises," it said in a new consultation on proposed new social responsibility controls (110-page / 794KB PDF). "The Commission therefore proposes to make clear in the relevant social responsibility code provision that licensees must ensure that the layout of premises facilitates the effectiveness of the licensees’ policies and procedures designed to prevent underage gambling."

The regulator also proposed that an amended LCCP should require gambling operators holding certain operating licences, including those running betting shops, to engage with "test purchasing" exercises to monitor how effective their policies and procedures are at preventing underage gambling and submit the results of that testing to the Commission for assessment.

The Commission rejected calls from some stakeholders to implement in its entirety a voluntary code of practice that the Association of British Bookmakers (ABB) introduced earlier this year into formal licensing conditions for gambling operators. Instead, it proposed licensing conditions that closely resemble those set out in the voluntary code and in some cases "strengthen protections further than would be the case if left solely to voluntary codes".

Under the ABB code, gambling operators must use new technology on their gaming machines to display reminders to customers when they have spent £250, and every £250 thereafter. Mandatory time-based reminders also pop up on customers' screens every half an hour.

Under the proposed new social responsibility obligations, gambling operators applying for a premises licence from a local authority would also have to specifically assess what "local risks to the licensing objective" arise as a result of providing gambling facilities at their premises and outline "plans for mitigating those risks".

Under the Commission's plans, non-remote gambling operators would further be required to give customers that have elected to self-exclude themselves from certain betting or gaming activities with them the chance to apply that self-exclusion more broadly to services offered by rival operators "in their locality" from 1 October 2015.

From the 1 October the following year, an option to implement a broader self-exclusion option for "all gambling facilities" in their local area would also have to be made available, according to the Commission's proposals.

The Commission has also asked stakeholders for their views on how information about gamblers' use of gaming machines, such as the time they have spent on those machines and the amount of money they have staked, could be provided to those individuals.

Remote gambling operators licensed in Great Britain would be required to offer customers the ability to self-exclude themselves from gambling with them for either a day, week, or a month, according to the new licensing proposals.

A new "national multi-operator self-exclusion scheme" is also to be created and, in accordance with proposed changes to the LCCP, will require most companies with remote gambling licences to prevent gamblers that have self-excluded themselves from betting or gaming with other remote operators from betting or gaming with them during the period of their self-exclusion. A date for the implementation of the scheme has yet to be set.

New technical standards have also been proposed to ensure that individuals betting and gaming online are given "facilities to assist them to keep track of the time they spend gambling".

Under the changes, gambling systems would have to "provide easily accessible facilities that make it possible for customers to set a frequency at which they will receive and see on the screen a reality check within a gaming session". A 'reality check' is defined by the Commission as "a display of the time elapsed since the session began". It said gamblers should be able to set a reality check and the frequency of when they appear on screen, and that the notifications should provide players with the option "to exit the gambling session".

The Commission has also announced plans to introduce a new licensing condition that would require gambling operators to ensure that their gambling adverts, in particular relating to the offer of 'free bets', correspond to rules and guidance that prohibit actions which mislead consumers.

In addition, the Commission has suggested that gambling operators may in future be required to ensure that players of gaming machines on their premises are given access to clearer information about the odds of winning the maximum prize being advertised.