The UK Gambling Commission (UKGC) has called on the Malta Gaming Authority and Malta-based gambling operators to raise regulation and operation standards for online gaming in the country. Speaking at a conference in Malta recently, the UK Gambling Commission Chief Executive Neil McArthur gave the audience an overview of the UKGC’s approach to gambling regulations. He also noted that compliance has “not been good enough” to date.
McArthur highlighted the work the Commission undertook last year to examine operator compliance with British regulations, which had 45 online casino operators being asked for an action plan for raising standards. Their work also resulted in the launch of enforcement action against 14 other operators. There were seven gambling operators who were penalised a total of £18 million, while five other operators and three management personnel decided to surrender their licenses.
“It’s disappointing to note that currently, 24 of the 45 operators who had to submit action plans are based here [in Malta],” McArthur said. “The same is true for five of the seven operators who had to pay penalties and three of those which surrendered licenses.” He added that gambling operators based in Malta now account for more than 30% of online GGY, or about an eighth of the British, up from about 10% in 2014.
He reminded operators that in order for them to ensure compliance, they have to gain a better understanding of their customers and keep an eye out for markers of harm. He also reminded them of the importance of interacting with customers who may already be experiencing or at risk of experiencing problems with gambling, closely examining their exposure level to gambling ads, and making sure there is ongoing evaluation of activities to raise consumer standards.
Furthermore, McArthur encouraged operators to collaborate, with the goal of producing an effective Industry Code for Game Design, which the Commission aims to publish no later than next Spring at the Raising Standards conference. They expect the Code to include techniques, which operators plan to use when they design their online games and apps, as well as the risks associated with each gambling product and the operators’ plans for mitigating them. The Code could also include a clear explanation of what is not acceptable as per British regulations.
Operators were also invited to take a closer look at how they treat their VIP customers, specifically focusing on the inducements being offered for these customers to gamble. He noted that as per experience, current requirements in this area are ineffective, and operators should come up with a Code of Conduct as quickly as possible.
McArthur also spoke on the subject of advertising, saying that the interim Gamble Aware report shows ad spending surging in recent years, and children, young people, and vulnerable adults are experiencing significant exposure to gambling ads online. “This concerns us, it concerns our experts on the Advisory Board for Safer Gambling, and it should concern you,” McArthur said. “Whilst I am not suggesting that children, young people, or vulnerable adults are being actively targeted--the research found very little evidence of ad tech being used to proactively target ads away from them, either. I want you to explore how you can make better use of technology to minimise the risk of exposure of gambling advertising content to children, young people, and vulnerable adults.”