The UK Gambling Commission (UKGC) has launched its consultation phase related to the protection of high-value customers. 

Industry personnel are being invited to share their views on related regulatory changes that the governing body has proposed. 

Operators have also been challenged by the Commission to do more when it comes to raising standards for VIP incentives, plus two other areas. 

The consultation is open until 14th August. 

UKGC looking for operators to make progress in a number of areas

Last week, the UKGC released a report looking at the progress that operators had made towards meeting three challenges that were set in October 2019. They were all given a deadline of 31st March by which they were supposed to have been met by. 

These related to improving safety in the following three areas: 

  • Incentives for high value customers, also known as HVCs or VIPs; 
  • Game and product design; 
  • The use of ad tech to protect children, young people and vulnerable adults from gambling-related harm on the internet. 

In relation to HVCs, the UKGC also wants two more granular areas to be addressed. These are: 

  • The heavy engagement of HVCs with gambling products, either through spend or frequency;
  • The disproportionate value of HVCs, in comparison to other players, to gambling operators. 

What are the UKGC’s current thoughts on VIP schemes? 

In the Commission’s recently-released report, it was critical about the potential harm that VIP initiatives cause. Other online gaming experts were also worried about the possible damage such schemes can cause to individuals.

“Feedback from experts by experience highlighted the risks that incentives pose to vulnerable groups and questioned the ability of the industry to self-regulate,” the paper said. “The dominant view was that HVC schemes should be banned altogether as they acted as an accelerant in their own personal gambling behaviour.

“Of the 26 former HVCs who contributed to the GamCare Forum survey, half stated the HVC schemes caused them to spend more on gambling. 

“The EbE group saw no evidence from their own experience or wider research and practice to suggest that HVC schemes are “safe” at any age and that the restriction to over-25s was wrong and in their view schemes are either safe or they are not. 

“Short of a ban, suggestions for additional controls included robust affordability and safer gambling checks and a requirement to establish a customer’s source of funds. GamCare staff highlighted the importance of progressing a single-customer view solution to avoid circumvention of these controls.”

What does the Commission want to change about HVC incentives? 

An industry group led by both the Betting and Gaming Council (BGC) and GVC Holdings has been developing a voluntary HVC code. If this is implemented, operators will be obliged to carry out full background checks on all customers before such incentives can be offered. 

Players up to and including the age of 24 will be ineligible for all VIP schemes, without exception. Moreover, all audit trials related to HVC reward programmes must be maintained. 

The UKGC pointed out that operators should be doing due diligence before offering VIP incentives anyway and as such, these regulations would not be anything drastic. 

They said: “As HVCs are a subset of the wider customer base, licensees should already be applying regulatory controls concerning customer protection and due diligence. 

“Much of what we are proposing in this consultation will not represent an additional burden to compliant licensees.”

Player protection initiatives have already been introduced in the UK this year, including the banning of gambling via credit card methods.